• Senate panel sets Benham Rise inquiry

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    DEFENSE and Foreign affairs officials were among those invited by the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs that will on Wednesday investigate alleged Chinese activities in Benham Rise.

    Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the committee, said the panel will be objective in its inquiry to prevent the undue “politization” of the groundwork to be laid for the responsible stewardship of the resource-rich Benham Rise.

    It will be the second public hearing on the issue.

    Gatchalian said that the primary purpose of the inquiry is to craft an executive-legislative strategy for the long-term defense and development of Benham Rise including the creation of the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA).

    “If the political opposition is expecting a political fault-finding mission, then they will surely be disappointed,” the senator said.

    Some groups have warned that President Rodrigo Duterte can be impeached for allowing China to send its research vessels to Benham Rise.

    Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th earlier said that a supplemental impeachment complaint will be filed against Duterte for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

    During the first committee hearing on Benham Rise, the Senate panel learned that local experts have no idea what is underneath the 13-million-hectare underwater plateau located several miles off the coast of Aurora province.

    The senator said he will ask representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense to shed light on the details of the Chinese incursion into the area and any diplomatic exchanges between Philippine and Chinese officials on the matter.

    The hearing will also tackle issues concerning biodiversity conservation as well as the management of marine and energy resources.

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