MANILA — Amid criticism on the Philippines’ move to grant a Chinese “think tank” access to the Benham Rise, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said allowing marine scientific research (MSR) in the area “benefits” the Philippines.
During the launch of the First-Time overseas Filipino workers Portal at the DFA-Aseana, Cayetano explained why the government denied the request of a French-based organization to conduct similar study in Philippine waters.
“The French ship applied for a different area and the area was quite sensitive,” he said, adding they were also not able to commit in admitting a Filipino on board.
“Sabi nila maliit lang daw yung barko nila kaya hindi na maka-accommodate ng Filipino so nag-no tayo.”
He said the Chinese ship agreed to comply with having a Filipino expert on board and sharing the findings with the government.
He added that in every marine scientific research, the three important things considered are: study of the marine life; how to preserve it; and whether mineral, oil and gas “can be harvested” from the area.
Accepting foreign research allows the government to obtain data on Benham Rise without spending too much of its resources, he said.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier said with China “squatting” on the West Philippine Sea and refusing to leave despite a tribunal ruling, the Philippines would be “dumb to grant China’s request.”
Cayetano did not comment on the statement but cited the marine research as beneficial.
He also underscored the need to “separate” this development initiative from maritime dispute in other areas.
“There’s no relation whatsoever between the exploration in Benham Rise and the South China Sea dispute,” he told reporters.
When asked on the documents detailing areas the French-based researchers requested and when the Chinese researchers started its MSR, the DFA-Office of Public Diplomacy said it is now coordinating with DFA-Maritime And Ocean Affairs Office.
Cayetano added that the French researchers have requested permission to look into “some parts” of Palawan he described as “sensitive.”