The House of Representatives has adopted a resolution calling on the executive department to allocate P100 million to additional scientific research and feasibility studies in Benham Rise, now known as the Philippine Rise.
House Resolution 1636 cited the need to create a trust fund of P100 million to be managed by the National Coast Watch Council for the purpose of additional scientific research, feasibility studies, marine exploration of the region and acquisition of new equipment to improve the government’s research capabilities.
“[S]cientific surveys and marine explorations showed that the Philippine Rise is rich in marine resources and massive mineral and gas deposits which can help the country achieve energy sufficiency,” read the resolution authored by Ilocos Sur Representative Deogracias Victor Savellano.
“[T]he award of the Philippine Rise to the Philippines by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf increased the areas of seabed subject to our country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction, prompting the amendment of our existing submarine maps which will likewise be used as the reference point by potential investors,” it added.
The adoption of the House resolution came after it was revealed that HCina had been granted permission to conduct maritime research at the Philippine Rise.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said it would be too costly for an all-Filipino team to conduct the research study, and that China was the only applicant that qualified to conduct research in the Rise.
“You do not need a permit for any Filipino corporation to conduct scientific investigation in Benham Rise because it is ours so that’s not something that a consent has to be given by the government,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers, however, slammed the Palace for Roque’s remark,
saying that financial incapacity should not be used an excuse to waive the country’s sovereign rights over the territory.
“Shame on Malacañang for using poverty as an excuse to betray our sovereign rights in Benham Rise and in other parts of our territory. Hindi dahilan ang kawalan ng pera o kahirapan ng bansa,” ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio said in a press conference on January 24.
President Rodrigo Duterte later ordered a stop to research by foreign scientists in Benham Rise,which Roque clarified as meaning that foreign researchers have to seek clearance from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon first.