Breach of marine scientific research permit can be grounds for denial of future applications - DFA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — Filipino scientists were only on board the Chinese research vessel for half the time it was in the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) said on Monday.

This was a breach of the marine scientific research (MSR) permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to China, Senator Bam Aquino said during the Senate panel hearing on Benham Rise MSRs.

Aquino, chair of the Committee on Science and Technology, said although this was the MSI's choice, the MSR permit was still not followed.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Lourdes Yparraguirre said violations of the MSR permit can have implications in future applications.

"If the conditions set in the MSR between the foreign research institution and the research institution of the coastal state are not met, it can be a reason for denial of consent in future MSRs by that particular research institution," Ypparaguirre said.

The DFA in January allowed China to conduct MSR in Philippine Rise, provided the team included a Filipino scientist on board and that data will be shared.

Four researchers from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) joined the Ke Xue vessel of the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

UP MSI Deputy Director for Research Cesar Villanoy said the absence of Filipino scientists for the whole duration of the cruise was due to logistical concerns.

"Hindi kami makapag-provide ng tao to join them for the whole cruise (We can't provide a researcher for the whole cruise)," Villanoy said. "(China) applied in July, they got their approval December na, and the cruise was January. We also need time to prepare. By the time the MSR was approved, the ship was already at sea."

Villanoy clarified the ship will only pass by the Philippine EEZ. For the cruise, China will transect Isabela to Mindanao and deploy instruments, he added.

"(The) total amount of time they will need to be in the Philippine EEZ waters were roughly 6 days. Pero kailangan mo kasing sumakay sa barko sa China at doon din bababa kasi walang port stops sa Pilipinas. So aabutin ho yun ng mahigit isang buwan," the MSI professor explained.

[Translation: You will need to board the ship in China and disembark there because they have no port stops in the Philippines. That will take almost a month.]

Villanoy added this is not something they can afford since the MSI researchers are also professors.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, meanwhile, said more funds should be allocated for Filipino scientists to conduct research on Benham Rise or Philippine Rise.

"It's a vast area," Esperon said, referring to the Philippine Rise. "The conduct of research should not just be by us because of the resources that we have. Sila mismo nagsasabi na makikipagtie up (They said we need to tie up with others)," Esperon said.

The United Nations has declared that Benham Rise, an undersea plateau 135 miles off the coast of Aurora province. It is part of the Philippines' extended continental shelf where the country has the sole right to its resources.