By Mario Casayuran
Opposition senators expressed their alarm by the admission of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that it has allowed China to conduct maritime research in Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean.
“We demand full transparency of the deal. What will the country stand to gain from this marine scientific research? Why do we need to partner with China? Can’t the Philippines do it on its own?,’’ Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said.
‘’What is in store for China after the research? How long will this be carried out, and what will be the coverage of the research? What are the mechanisms and guidelines in place in the conduct of the activity?,’’ he asked.
Pangilinan asked what would be the impact of such joint undertaking on the national interest and security of the Philippines.
‘’We raise these queries because history and experience tell us that China is not exactly the most trustworthy partner for such an activity. We cannot turn a blind eye to past reports about China’s bullying of our local fishermen and its constant patrolling of disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea,’’ he said.
Pangilinan said that amid the protest of the Philippines and other claimant nations, China continued its military build-up and aggressive infrastructure projects in waters that are subject of dispute.
The United Nations arbitration court ruled that the Philippines, not China, is the legal owner of parts of the Spratly Island chain, Scarborough Shoal and other islets in the West Philippine Sea.
Pangilinan said the Duterte administration should be transparent in its dealings with China to allay fears of the people that it is betraying our national sovereignty and patrimony.
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino III said a serious investigation on the government’s dealings with China is long overdue as he renewed his call for a Senate probe into the direction of the country’s foreign policy.
Aquino said he filed on September 19, 2016 Resolution No. 158 seeking to clarify the country’s foreign policy direction to determine the administration’s position on several issues, including the West Philippine Sea, Benham Rise and other dealings with China.
‘’This is a serious issue and the Philippines has too much to lose,” he said.
Aquino said a full-dress inquiry would center on the details of deals entered into by the government with China, especially on the conduct of maritime scientific research in the Benham Rise or now known as Philippine Rise.
“If these deals will truly benefit the Filipino people, there shouldn’t be anything to hide,” he added.
Aquino also called on the government to assert the country’s victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the West Philippine Sea issue, saying it will go down the drain if not implemented.