MANILA - China's application for a permit to survey the Benham Rise shows it respects the Philippines' sovereignty over the resource-rich area, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the fact that the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oceanology requested for a permit shows that it recognizes Manila's sovereignty over the area.
"In this case, Chinese authorities applied for a permit from the Philippine government. The mere fact they applied for permit is recognition over Benham Rise," he said.
Lagman however, noted that should China violate the terms of the permit, the Philippines can revoke it.
"If there's any violation on the part of China, the permit or permission can be withdrawn as a penalty for violations of the conditions," he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier granted the request of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oceanology to do research at the Benham Rise, a resource-rich underwater plateau located east of Isabela.
Critics blasted the move, saying it could undermine Manila’s interests in the waters, which the United Nations in 2012 awarded as an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano meanwhile questioned Manila's capacity to monitor Beijing's compliance with the requirements of the permit issued.
He said Chinese survey ships should be under the close supervision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"As long as there is no exploration, no exploitation of marine resources in the EEZ ( exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines or non-living resources and sedentary species in the extended continental shelf, mamo-monitor ba 'yan?" he said.