DFA on Benham Rise: 'Same rules for all countries'

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the same rules apply for all countries when it comes to conducting research in Benham Rise, and there should be "nothing suspicious" about this.

Cayetano made these remarks on Friday, January 12, after Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano blasted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for supposedly approving a Chinese request to conduct research in Benham Rise, while rejecting a similar plea from a French think tank. 

Asked about Alejano's claim, Cayetano said, "Let me check the details, but what I can assure Congressman Alejano and the Filipino people is that we have the same rules for all the countries."

"We have to follow the law. Filipino law says that research can be done in the continental shelf and in certain areas, marine areas, for as long as there's a Filipino onboard, and second, for as long as all findings – data, research – are shared," Cayetano said.

He added: "There's nothing suspicious about approval or disapproval of scientific research. Whether they are Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Singaporeans, et cetera, if they comply, we will approve. If they do not comply, we will not approve."

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque meanwhile said of the reported permit for China, "That's legal if we consented." 

Benham Rise is a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora, which the Philippines fought for and won before the United Nations in 2012.

In March 2017, a Chinese vessel was spotted in Benham Rise, but the DFA said President Rodrigo Duterte did not "allow" China to visit the area. – Rappler.com 

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com