Palace says foreign researchers in Benham need approval from NSA

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2018 12:41 PM

A technical diver checks out the coral cover during an expedition at Benham Rise last May 26, 2016. Screengrab from a video produced by Oceana Philippines (MANDATORY CREDIT)

MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday clarified that future research works in Benham Rise by foreign entities may still be allowed if approved by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Tuesday announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the revocation of licenses of foreign researchers in Benham Rise (Philippine Rise), and directed the Navy to “chase out” any vessel doing such.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, citing information from the Department of Foreign Affairs, said there are no more foreign researchers present in the resource-rich waters.

Roque said research works by foreigners on Benham Rise had already been concluded, including the one conducted by Chinese research vessel Ke Xue Hao.

“He has caused the revocation of foreign entities’ [permits]. Henceforth, all foreign companies that wish to conduct research work must apply to the interagency and get approval from the NSA,” Roque said in a news briefing.

The Duterte administration was heavily criticized after it was revealed that it allowed China to conduct research on Benham Rise, a resource-rich underwater plateau located east of Isabela which the United Nations in 2012 awarded as an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf.

China has an ongoing dispute with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations over South China Sea. It has conducted reclamation works in the sea’s Spratly islands and was reported to have almost finished building military facilities in the area.

Critics say the Duterte administration was undermining Manila’s interests by allowing the Chinese to conduct research on Benham Rise.