By Genalyn D. Kabiling
Filipinos could not afford to conduct a costly maritime research on the Philippine Rise, formerly called Benham Rise, Malacañang said Tuesday in defense of its decision to allow China to explore the area.
“No one has applied and no one can do it because, apparently, it’s capital intensive,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said during a Palace press briefing on why Filipinos could not do its own research in the area.
Roque explained that China has been allowed to do research in the area after complying with the requirements, including having a Filipino scientist on board during the undertaking.
“Only China has qualified so far,” he said. “There are other applicants, unfortunately they did not qualify according to fixed guidelines already set by the government,” he added.
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier granted the request of Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences to do research at the Philippine Rise, a resource-rich underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora.
Critics, however, questioned the move could undermine the country’s interests in the area.
Senator Francis Pangilinan has expressed alarm over China’s involvement in the Benham Rise research, saying Beijing was not exactly the most trustworthy partner for such activity.
Pangilinan also asked why the country needed to partner with China and why couldn’t the Philippines do its own research.
Roque, however, defended China’s involvement in the maritime research on the Benham Rise, saying the country also stands to benefit from such initiative.
“Ano bang nakukuha na gain kapag nagkakaroon ng scientific research? It brings us closer to the truth, gives us a better understanding of what Benham Rise has,” he said.
He said the exploration also “gives us a better understanding of how we can better utilize the resources of Benham Rise.”
The United Nations (UN) earlier declared that Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf where the country has “sovereign rights” to its resources.