“The ‘joint research’ is clearly a new manipulative move by China for territorial expansion and usurpation.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — In April 2012, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled that Benham Rise, now known as the Philippine Rise, is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). As if throwing a big battle for territorial sovereignty to the bin, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Chinese government entered into an agreement so the latter could conduct unspecified research activities in the Philippine Rise.
“The ‘joint research’ is clearly a new manipulative move by China for territorial expansion and usurpation. The research would give China access to potential resources and marine features of the rise, then it would be followed by exploration and reclamation activities,” Fernando Hicap, chairperson of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas), said.
The Philippine Rise is a 13-million hectare underwater plateau opposite of the West Philippine Sea. It is a rich source of various marine species, and untapped mineral and gas deposits. In 2017, Chinese ships were already seen surveying the area.
“We fear that their 9-dash line assumption would extend with more lines to cover the rise and justify their claim,” Hicap added.
PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas vowed that they will oppose any attempt of the Philippine Government, of China, or both to undertake a joint research in the Philippine Rise. It challenged the Duterte administration to pressure China to comply with the decision of the international tribunal granting.