As ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte, foreigners will no longer be allowed to conduct research in the Philippine Rise to protect the country’s sovereignty, this according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on March 7, 2018.
The Philippine Rise or Benham Rise is an underwater plateau located in the East of Isabela province that is rich in marine life, corals, and gas reserves. China and other countries have conducted research here.
Malacañang said the order was not directed over by Beijing, but according to Esperon, the government will raise before the United Nation’s China move to name five undersea features in the Philippine Rise.
Esperon said the research will be done by Filipino scientists and experts from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, other institutions on geological services, and other science agencies, as well as the DENR National Coast Watch Center.
“The research will be done by us,” he said. “In addition to our MSR (marine scientific research) ships, we will procure one that is better equipped. It will cost, including instruments, about PhP 2.5 billion.”
The Duterte administration will also be strengthening the agencies to guard Philippine Rise from foreign incursion as the area can be a huge source of natural gas and food for Filipinos, according to Esperon. The Department of Energy will spearhead the procurement of the maritime survey ship, the national security adviser said.
The PH rise is rich in bluefin tuna, which, according to Esperon, the country can tap for export and local consumption.
“The President noted that foreigners have been doing a lot of research and noted that an overwhelming number of researches have been undertaken by American firms, whereas there were only two licenses given to Chinese firms,” said Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
“So, he has said that he will absolutely prohibit all the scientific researches in the area now. And when he said that it was not directed against China, it’s because as far as we know, China has only had two scientific researches in the area,” Roque added.
According to Esperon, the President was firm in protecting the Philippines’ sovereign rights.
“Any country that will violate the country’s (rights) will be met with force by the Philippine forces. We will face it with all our might. We will go to war with what we have… That’s the last resort, but there will be other means to take care of things. War will be the option of last resort,” Esperon added.