By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte declared he is ready to go to war against any country which will conduct research in Philippine Rise without government permission.
“If any country would say that they want to try and experiment there [Philippine Rise] without our permission, hindi talaga ako papayag (I will not allow it) and it will mean war,” the President said at the opening ceremonies of the National SWAT Challenge in Davao City Thursday night.
“The marines are already there. Do not be afraid. I will be there with you,” he added.
The Chief Executive said government will protect Philippine Rise from countries who would overbear their power.
“We will never agree to an insult like that. Do not mess with us because we will not allow it. If it’s time to heaven then so be it,” the President said.
Duterte earlier banned foreign researchers to explore the Philippine Rise without his permission and recommendation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He will also not allow fishing in the area.
The ban was issued after research activities have ended.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said the Philippines can allow any country to hold a joint exploration in its exclusive economic zone (EZZ) because it holds the sovereign decision to do so.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement a day after he confirmed that there are ongoing talks between Filipino and Chinese firms related to the conduct of a joint exploration in the disputed South China Sea.
“Exclusive economic zone refers to exclusive right to explore and exploit, but it is your sovereign decision kung gusto mong magkaroon ng joint exploration (if you want to have a joint exploration there),” Roque explained yesterday.
He said there are two areas being considered for the joint exploration – Service Contracts (SCs) 57 and 72, which are both under the country’s EEZ.
The Palace official said there would be no problem in conducting the joint exploration in SC 57 but not SC 72 because of an ongoing dispute. In this case, both countries need to have an agreement first before starting a joint exploration.
“From what I know, SC 57 is not affected by any dispute so we can hold the joint exploration there,” Roqueadded.
According to the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), SC 57 was awarded to PNOC Exploration Corporation (EC) on September 15, 2005. It covers a total area of 7,120 sq. km. in offshore Northwest Palawan and is situated around 50 kilometers northwest from the north-westernmost tip of Busuanga Island.
SC 72, on the other hand, was awarded to Sterling Energy Ltd in June 2002. It is located in the West Philippine Sea, west of Palawan Island and southwest of the Shell-operated Malampaya Gas Field. SC 72 covers an area measuring 8,800 square kilometers.