Local, foreign study in PH Rise for ‘national interest’ — Esperon
It is within the Philippines’ “national interest” to encourage both Filipino and foreign marine scientific researches (MSRs) in the maritime domain, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday.
At a Senate joint hearing into the exploration studies in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) and the West Philippine Sea, Esperon said that after a meeting with Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Lourdes Yparraguirre, “it became clear to (him) that MSR is conducted for the benefit of all mankind.”
“Therefore subject to national interests, domestic and international laws, including the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), the Philippine maritime domain should be open to MSRs to both Filipino and foreign scientists,” Esperon said.
“By doing so the Philippines also improves its own capabilities to conduct MSR by joining or partnering with foreign scientists,” he added.
His statement comes after he said China’s move to name features in the Philippine Rise only gave them “honor” but not jurisdiction over the territory.
Esperon also said the Philippine government, through its interagency technical working group, granted research permits not only to China but the United States, Japan, Korea, Germany and Russia.
“It is in the Philippines’ national interest to encourage MSR in its maritime domain, balanced by the requirements of sustainable development and national security,” he also said.
MSRs, Esperon said, should also be funded well.
But for maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, Filipinos should be “concerned” and “threatened” of China’s moves, as he lamented how the Philippines was “being left behind” in its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Senator Bam Aquino, chair of the committee on science and technology, stressed the importance of investigating the matter, saying the country’s territory and natural resources were at stake.
An exclusive report by the Inquirer has revealed that China has “almost finished transformation” of seven disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea into military fortresses. /cbb
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