Prohibiting all foreign scientific researchers from the Philippine Rise underwater plateau would be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Tuesday, February 6.
Associate Justice Carpio said in an interview after Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a Facebook post that the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had dictated a stop to all foreign scientific research in the Philippine Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau near the Aurora province.
Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, is widely believed to be rich in biodiversity and tuna fish. Scientists from the United States of America and Japan have surveyed the Philippine Rise numerous times.
Dating back in 2012, the United Nations recognized the country’s exclusive economic rights to the Benham Rise, which the Unclos also declared part of the Philippine continental shelf.
DOA brass Piñol said that President Duterte had directed the Department of National Defense to install Navy patrol ships and Air Force planes to chase away unauthorized vessels from the Philippine Rise.
Piñol added that Duterte issued the order after a “low-level” foreign diplomat suggested that the Philippines did not really own the Philippine Rise.
“Let me be clear about this: Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration,” Piñol quoted President Duterte as saying during a Cabinet meeting on Monday night, February 5th.
Piñol stressed out that Duterte wanted to limit scientific research in the Philippine Rise to Filipinos only.
But Carpio stated that a ban on foreign scientific research in the Philippine Rise should apply only to China due to it had stood firm on disrespecting the July 2016 ruling on the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration that upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.
“Under the Unclos, the Philippines can validly disallow China from conducting marine scientific research in our extended continental shelf in [Philippine] Rise because China has refused to comply with the arbitral ruling of a tribunal created under Unclos,” Carpio said.
But the Philippines cannot block all other foreign scientific researchers from Philippine Rise because the ban would violate the Unclos, Carpio added.
According to Carpio, under the Article 246 of Unclos mandates that “coastal states” like the Philippines “shall, in normal circumstances, grant their consent for marine scientific research projects by other states.”
“The Philippines has no valid ground to disallow other member states of Unclos and will be violating Unclos if it disallows other states,” Carpio said.
The action limiting scientific research to Filipinos only came as President Duterte faced new criticism for failing to bar China’s militarization of artificial islands it had established in the South China Sea.
In a press statement released on Tuesday, February 6, the Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said that Duterte’s measure was his “squid tactics” to divert public attention from his administration’s surrender of Philippine sovereignty to China
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had given China a permission to conduct scientific research in the Philippine Rise. — Centrio News