MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese vessel to be used for the marine scientific research has already entered Philippine waters following the approval of the activity in Benham Rise, according to Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.
He also said that as early as 2012, the Filipinos had been conducting expeditions in the area, but could not go full blast because of lack of funding.
Quoting his sources, Alejano revealed that the Ke Xue Hao research vessel of China as of January 23 was located northeast of Palanan, Isabela.
“China’s research vessel entered Philippine territory on January 22, two days early from the granted duration of the MSR which starts on January 24 and ends on February 25,” said Alejano, who earlier disclosed the conduct of the research activity.
What is crucial as the research activity begins is the monitoring of China’s compliance to the guidelines set by the Philippines, according to the lawmaker.
“What we should make sure now is the compliance of China to all the requirements demanded by the Philippine government as conditions to the permit issued,” Alejano said.
“In particular, we should be wary on the sharing of information that will be culled from the said expedition. Filipino scientists on board should be given equal access to all results of the research activity,” he added.
Alejano also refuted the recent statement of the Palace amid criticisms against the decision of the Duterte administration to allow China to conduct MSR in Benham Rise.
Malacanang recently said that Filipinos alone were incapable of conducting research in the resource-rich area.
However, Alejano said, “it is not because our scientists do not have the ability to conduct research. It is because the government does not allot sufficiently for it”.
“In fact, there have already been expeditions in the area conducted by Filipinos to support our claim in Benham Rise before it was awarded to us in 2012. What they need now in order to explore Benham further is more support from the government instead of demeaning remarks,” he added.
The lawmaker pointed out the non-allocation of funding for a research facility in Benham Rise which was proposed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources during the budget deliberations last year.
“This administration has shown no interest and support on strengthening our presence in Benham. Thus, it has no ascendancy to say that Filipinos cannot conduct research in the area given its lack of support,” he said.