Bam Aquino decries ‘violation’ in China’s research at PH Rise
Senator Bam Aquino lamented on Monday how Filipino scientists appeared to have been sidelined during China’s marine scientific researches (MSRs) at the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) last January.
At a Senate hearing, Aquino deplored how China allegedly violated the guidelines on the conduct of its MSRs when Filipino scientists were only present half of the time during its exploration of the area.
Last January 19, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) granted the request of the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences to conduct MSR with the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), according to Aquino.
DFA Assistant Secretary on Maritime and Ocean Affairs Lourdes Yparraguirre said as part of its guidelines to approve MSR requests, Filipino scientists should be present during the entire duration of the study conducted within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
But, during the Senate hearing, Dr. Cesar Villanoy of UP MSI revealed that they were only able to send representatives three days out of the six-day stay of China researchers in the Philippine EEZ because they lack manpower.
“Masyado naman kasi tayong mabait eh. Kung hindi handa yung research team natin eh idi pa-postpone natin. It’s our territory, it’s our prerogative,” Aquino noted.
At this point, Aquino asked Yparraguirre what actions they took to address the violation.
“It was discussed during the bilateral consultations mechanism last February 13 in Manila between Philippines and China,” Yparraguirre said.
“We stressed that all MSRs to be conducted by them should have our consent and terms and conditions laid out, including the conduct of research, should be followed,” she added.
The DFA official, who heads the interagency technical working group mandated to approve MSR requests, also said China’s non-fulfillment of the conditions set in their permit could be a basis “to deny future requests of MSRs.”
Aquino said rules on the conduct of MSRs should be clarified, and consequences for violations should be laid out.
“At the minimum, kung meron tayong mga patakaran, nararapat lang na ‘yung mga karatig-bansa natin sumusunod. Huwag naman tayo lagi ‘yung nagbebend-backwards para sa kanila… not just China but all other countries need to follow our own rules,” Aquino stressed in a separate interview.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said they are set to review their guidelines on granting MSRs, including the possible intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte in the approval of maritime research requests.
During the same hearing, Aquino said it was revealed that in previous years, China also violated the country’s sovereign rights when it conducted hydrographic surveys in the Philippine Rise without required consent of the Philippine government.
He said at the course of their research, China found five features in the undersea territory, which they recently named through the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).
Aquino stressed that the “government must explore all channels to overturn China’s move to name the five undersea features in the Philippine Rise.” /kga
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