By GENALYN KABILING
Insisting the Philippine Rise is “ours,” President Duterte is putting a stop to the marine research and other exploration activities by foreign groups in the area.
The President has decided that only Filipinos would be allowed to explore the Philippine Rise, previously known as Benham Rise, and directed military’s air and naval assets to chase away any foreign vessels in the area.
The President’s latest directives were issued during a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang last Monday, according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
“President Rody Duterte last night ordered the cessation of all marine explorations and studies by foreign scientists and directed the Philippine Navy to ‘chase out’ any vessel fishing or conducting researches in the 13-million hectare continental shelf east of Luzon formerly called the Benham Rise,” Piñol said in a Facebook post.
The President has asserted the country’s ownership of Benham Rise during the Cabinet meeting, according to Piñol.
“Let me be very clear about this: the Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration,” Piñol said, quoting the President.
“Henceforth, only Filipino scientists will be allowed to conduct researches and exploration in the Philippine Rise,” Duterte added.
The Department of National Defense has also been ordered “to deploy Navy vessels and the Philippine Air Force to conduct fly overs in the area to check on the presence of foreign vessels,” Piñol said.
He said unmanned aerial vehicles would also be dispatched from military bases east of Luzon to monitor the expanse of the Philippine Rise.
Piñol said the Department of Agriculture would also send two vessels – BRP Lapu-Lapu and BRP Francisco Dagohoy – to monitor the presence of foreign vessels in Benham Rise. The agriculture department issues Gratuitous Permits for Foreign Marine Explorations through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Piñol said the President made the government’s “categorical position” on Benham Rise after a foreign diplomat claimed Benham Rise does not belong to any country.