FOREIGN entities can still conduct marine scientific research in the Philippine (Benham) Rise, provided they secure approval from the National Security Adviser on top of the permit issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Malacañang said on Tuesday, February 6.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. confirmed that "for now," only Filipinos have the privilege to explore the 13-million-hectare Philippine Rise, as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Roque's latest pronouncement came after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced on his Facebook account that Duterte had ordered to prohibit foreign scientists from carrying out any researches in the undersea region claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory.
The presidential spokesperson clarified that the President's order to forbid foreign scientists' explorations and studies in the Philippines Rise is "not an absolute rule."
Roque said foreigners can still hold marine exploration, if they are able to secure permits from the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) inter-agency technical working group and the office of National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
"For now, let's limit it to Filipinos. Now, it's not an absolute rule. He (Duterte) said that henceforth, all those who want to conduct research in Philippine Rise must, in addition, get the permission of the National Security Adviser, Secretary Esperon," he told Palace reporters.
"Yes, he (Duterte) says that although all scientific research permits are deemed cancelled, any new applications, in addition to application to be filed with an [DFA] inter-agency technical working group, we'll have to make a separate application with the Office of the National Security Adviser," he added.
Earlier Tuesday, Piñol said Duterte, in a meeting with Cabinet officials on Monday, February 5, had prohibited foreign scientists' exploration in the Philippine Rise.
Piñol further said that the Chief Executive had directed concerned government agencies to monitor the presence of foreign groups within the expanse of the continental shelf located east of Luzon.
Roque said Duterte had come up with such decision since other countries had already completed their respective researches in the Philippine Rise.
Recently, the Philippine government allowed China, Japan, Korea and the United States to conduct research in the Philippine rise.
"All research had already been concluded in the area, which is probably why the President ordered that henceforth, only Filipinos now can conduct scientific research and only Filipinos can explore and exploit natural resources in the Benham Rise," Roque said. (SunStar Philippines)