Alejano: Chinese vessels left Benham Rise 2 days before Duterte’s order to leave

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Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano said Chinese vessels left Philippine Rise, or Benham Rise, two days before President Rodrigo Duterte issued his order stopping foreign scientists from conducting marine research in those waters.

“It was a knee-jerk reaction from the administration after the overwhelming opposition of the public on allowing China to conduct marine scientific research (MSR) in Benham Rise,” Alejano said in a statement.

“Further, according to our sources, the Chinese vessels have already left two days ago – before this assertion by the President. The decision is therefore rendered insignificant,” the Magnificent 7 lawmaker said..

Alejano said he and other critics never asked for total cessation of marine research by foreign entities in the area. “For one, it is provided in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that all states have the ‘right to conduct MSR subject to the rights and duties of other States’,” he said.

“In the same document, coastal states, such as the Philippines, have the ‘right to regulate, authorize, and conduct MSR’ in their Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. Thus, what we are demanding instead is careful consideration and prudence in granting permits with constant regard for our national security,” Alejano said.

“What we need is a clear foreign policy direction with China which will guide the actions and decision-making of all concerned agencies of government,” Alejano said.

“Second, I call for transparency from this administration regarding all its agreements and discussions with China. Finally, the long-term solution would be to strengthen our capacity to safeguard and monitor activities in our maritime domain,” he added.