MALACAÑANG on Monday insisted the Duterte administration did not give up any territory to China, after a UP maritime law expert said the Philippines was “trading away too much, too early and too soon in dealing with China.”
“On the contrary, we have upheld our national interest and produced tangible benefits for our people in pursuing friendly and mutually beneficial ties with China,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
“We have said in numerous occasions that we will continue to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights when we discuss our territorial and maritime disputes with China while maximizing the benefits of our people by promoting economic and other relations with China in which there are no contentious issues between us,” Roque said.
He noted that Filipinos were able to resume fishing at Panatag (Scarborough) shoal, and that the region was at “peace.”
This is “over and above” the increase in Chinese tourists in the country, as well as investments from mainland China, he said.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, earlier bared that China had named five undersea features in the 13-million-hectare undersea plateau now known as the Philippine Rise.
Roque had said the Philippine embassy in Beijing had raised the matter to China.
The embassy is also considering a recommendation to notify the International Hydrographic Organization, which approved China’s application to name the five features in 2014, two years after the Philippines won its claim on the Philippine Rise.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the termination of all requests of foreign entities to do research in the area.
Filipinos will be prioritized in conducting research, laying submarine cables and exploring and exploiting national resources in the Philippine Rise or Benham Rise, Roque said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier drew flak for granting the request of the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for marine scientific research in Eastern Luzon and Eastern Mindanao.
A similar request by France-based nonprofit Tara Expeditions was declined by the DFA, according to Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
Poe wants ‘full accounting’
Sen. Grace Poe on Monday deplored the purported agreement with China on the Benham Rise exploration, saying it was “bereft of details and has not been made public, even as Malacañang has ordered a stop to foreign research on Benham Rise.”
Poe urged government agencies to conduct a “full accounting” of aquatic, mineral, oil and gas deposits in the Philippine Rise and West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to strengthen the claim of the Philippines in these areas.
Poe filed Resolution 611 on February 6, 2018 urging the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resource Research and Development (DoST-PCAARRD) and the Philippine Council on Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development (DoST-PCIEERD) to conduct exploration studies at the Philippine Rise and West Philippine Sea.
The Philippine government should strengthen, “not surrender its claim to the disputed areas, in the same vein that it should obtain any data by foreign researchers who had conducted explorations in the areas,” she said.
“If studies to be conducted by Filipino scientists would prove that Benham Rise and the West Philippine Sea are rich in mineral and oil deposits, it could turn the Philippines into a gas exporter and could reduce the dependence of the country on imported oil,” Poe said.
The senator noted that Congress passed in 2009 Republic Act 9522 or the Archipelagic Baselines Law that delineates the country’s baselines or the territorial sea pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos).
In April 2012, the UN recognized and officially approved the Philippines’ claim on Benham Rise as part of its continental shelf.
RALPH U. VILLANUEVA AND BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO