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PH to lift ban on foreign maritime scientific research

PH to lift ban on foreign maritime scientific research
Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos October 25, 2019

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s moratorium on foreign explorations and studies in the Philippine waters, particularly the Philippine Rise, will soon be lifted, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. announced on Friday.

In a press conference, Esperon said the impending revocation of the ban on foreign entities' maritime scientific research (MSR) would help the government to further develop the country’s marine resources.

“MSR is the first step for the sustainable development of the marine resources which will benefit both Filipinos and the rest of mankind,” Esperon said.

“So we will lift shortly the moratorium on marine scientific research by foreign government and institutions,” he added.

In February 2018, Duterte ordered a halt on the foreign scientists' marine exploration and studies in the Philippine Rise, a 13-million hectare continental shelf located east of Luzon, to assert the country’s territorial rights over the area.

The President also made the move last year to give priority to Filipino scientists who are conducting researches and explorations in the underwater plateau.

Esperon admitted that the ban was imposed after the government learned that some foreign entities had conducted research expeditions without permission.

He added that foreign applicants had also refused to allow Filipino scientists to board their research vessels.

“If they don’t allow us, then what benefit do we get out of it since they are supposed to deposit with us their findings as well as the materials,” Esperon said.

More than a year after the implementation of the prohibition order, foreign marine researchers who want to explore the Philippine waters would be given another chance to process their permits, Esperon said.

Esperon said allowing foreign groups to conduct maritime studies in the Philippine waters would be “good” for the country.

“We are opening up again the MSR processing, permits for MSR simply because we believe that the academe has to be deployed and do research for us and for all of mankind to get to know more of our maritime domain,” he said.

“Maritime scientific research is good for us and other research institutions simply because we get to know more of the maritime domain,” Esperon added.

‘Robust’ MSR sought

Esperon’s announcement came ahead of the scheduled National Maritime Summit at the Manila Hotel on October 29 to 30.

The summit will be attended by stakeholders from the government, academe, and think-tanks, community-based and non-government organizations, maritime industry organizations, environmentalists and scientists.

Esperon said the conference will emphasize the current administration’s policy direction that “the maritime interests of the Philippines rest on sustainable development and safeguarding our national patrimony, marine wealth and national territory.”

Esperon said the National Marine Summit would be the government’s vehicle to pursue a “robust” marine scientific research and make the country a “more responsible stakeholder for the environment.”

He added that the government also plans to show the country's “credible” defense posture and maritime law enforcement capability.

“The Philippines already has a solid record and reputation for marine environment conservation and protection,” he said.

“We will step up our efforts here because the East Asian Seas are connected. We will explore the possibility of connecting our marine protected areas with neighboring countries, especially within the coral triangle and the rest of the region,” Esperon added. (PNA)