Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Manila bans foreign research at plateau

LONG-RUNNING DISPUTE:The move came as the president faced fresh criticism for failing to stop China’s militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned all foreign scientific exploration on a vast undersea plateau claimed by Manila, his spokesman said yesterday, now that China has completed its research there.

Authorities announced three weeks ago that the president had allowed China to conduct research at Benham Rise off the nation’s Pacific coast, despite the two nations’ decades-old maritime disputes elsewhere in the region.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the president on Monday ordered an end to all foreign research in the area at a Cabinet meeting after Chinese scientists completed their expedition.

“The president ordered that henceforth only Filipinos will be allowed to conduct scientific research... and explore and exploit for natural resources in the Philippine Rise,” Roque told reporters, using the local name for the area.

The 13 million hectare underwater land mass, believed to be rich in maritime resources, lies 250km off the east coast of the main Philippine island of Luzon.

In 2012, the UN recognized the Philippines’ exclusive economic rights to Benham Rise as part of its continental shelf.

Roque added that all other foreign research permits were now revoked, including 26 issued to US, Japanese and South Korean organizations.

Philippine Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Pinol added that Duterte had directed the Philippine Navy to “chase out” any foreign vessels fishing or conducting research in the area.

The move banning foreign research came as Duterte faced fresh criticism for failing to stop China’s militarization of artificial islands built by Beijing over reefs and rocks in the South China Sea.

Opposition politicians and legal experts alleged this was tantamount to giving up Philippine territory.

“The president does not kowtow to any other country,” Roque said.

China and the Philippines have had a long-running dispute over competing claims in the South China Sea to the west of Luzon.

Parts of the waterway are also claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Duterte’s predecessor, former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III, had forcefully challenged China in diplomatic and legal circles over the South China Sea dispute, but Duterte has changed course since he was elected in mid-2016 in a bid for billions of US dollars worth of Chinese investment.

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