Alejano questions DFA approval of conduct of PHL-China marine research in PHL waters

(Eagle News)– Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Friday expressed concern about what he said was the joint marine research in Philippine waters to be conducted by the Philippines and China.

According to Alejano, it was the Department of Foreign Affairs that gave the approval for the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute to conduct the research that he said would cover Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and Eastern Mindanao.

“We should be careful and prudent in granting any access to our waters especially with China who is known to claim 80% of our EEZ in South China Sea through its expansive 9-dash line,” Alejano said in a Facebook post.

In the first place, he said China “has sought several times for a permit to conduct research in Benham Rise since 2015 but all were rejected because of denial of involvement of Filipino experts, according to DFA’s Maritime and Oceans Affairs Office.”

“It seems that China was only forced to collaborate with UP-MIS for the sake of getting the permit. Given this initial behavior, we should be worried on whether the Philippines will be given equal access to all information culled by the joint project,” Alejano said.

He noted that there was a “similar request from a French-based non-profit organization, Tara Expeditions Foundation, to conduct marine research in the general area where the Chinese will be conducting MSR,” but its request was denied.

“Provided that we need additional resources and capabilities to study and explore our eastern waters, particularly the Benham Rise, the French-based non-profit organization is way preferable than a Chinese national scientific think tank,” he said.

He said this was because the Philippines has “no territorial conflict with France, vis-à-vis China which has shown aggression and great interest on our territories.”

Apart from this, he said that “geographically speaking, France is not an immediate security threat to us compared to China.”

“If in terms of the capability of Tara, I think it is also safe to assume that it is competent as much as IO-CAS, having already accomplished high-level scientific research missions across the world’s oceans,” Alejano said.

“So why China? All things considered, allowing a Chinese national think tank to conduct a so-called scientific research over Philippine waters, even with participation of Filipinos, is careless and absurd. What is really the intention of the Duterte administration in allowing such activity at the expense of our national security?” Alejano asked.