Cayetano: We allowed U.S., Japan, Korea to study Benham Rise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) - China was not the only country that the Philippine government allowed to conduct research in Benham Rise, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

Speaking before reporters at the groundbreaking of the National Government Administrative Center in Tarlac, DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano told reporters that since 2000, the government has approved 13 scientific research requests in Benham Rise from the United States.

He said Japan and South Korea also made nine and four requests, respectively, to conduct research in the area. All of these were approved.

As for China, only two out of China's 18 applications for scientific research missions in Benham Rise were approved.

Based on the number of requests, he said China appears to be late in the game when it comes to conducting research in the undersea plateau, located 135 miles off the coast of Aurora province.

"Marami sa mga mayayaman na bansa, hindi pa naa-award sa atin (ang Benham Rise), ginawa na research nila," Cayetano said.

[Translation: Other rich countries were ahead of China. They conducted research in Benham Rise even before it was awarded to us.]

The United Nations has declared Benham Rise part of the Philippines' extended continental shelf where the country has the sole right to its resources.

Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano earlier revealed the DFA granted a Chinese think tank's request to conduct maritime studies in Benham Rise and waters off Mindanao.

A similar request from a French nonprofit organization, however, was denied.

Cayetano said the French group's request was turned down because they did not have a Filipino scientist on board.

"'Yung problema sa French trip, sabi nila maliit 'yung ship, di pwedeng sumakay ang Filipino. Kung pinayagan nila at 'yung ruta okay sa atin, pinayagan natin," he said.

[Translation: The problem with the French, they said the ship was small and a Filipino could not tag along. If only they agreed to our terms, we would have allowed them.]

He reiterated the countries must comply with the requirements to have a Filipino scientist must be onboard and to share research data with the government.

Cayetano added the Philippines stands to gain from the various research conducted by different countries.