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Para exclusive China? Cayetano blocks French research team in Benham Rise

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed turning down a French-based non-profit organization’s request to conduct marine research at Benham Rise despite giving the green light to Chinese entity for a similar purpose.

Cayetano on Friday (January 19) justified the rejection by saying that the area where Tara Expeditions Foundation wanted to do research was “quite sensitive.”

The French ship applied for a different area and secondly, they said their ship is too small to accommodate a Filipino (researcher), that’s why we said no,” he said.

“The reason why we did not approve it (is because) a sensitive part of Palawan (is what) they want to look into,” he added.

It was Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano who revealed that the Department of Foreign Affairs turned down Tara Expedition’s research request.

Cayetano said the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) secured permission to conduct research in Philippine waters because it promised to comply with the requirements of having a Filipino on board and sharing their findings.

He said the Philippines stands to benefit from China’s research in Benham Rise and waters off eastern Mindanao.

“First is biodiversity, the marine research, second is preservation of the environment, so the more data we know what are the fishes there, the corals, what are the breeding grounds, we’ll know how to preserve the area, and less cost for research, third the mineral, oil and gas that can be harvested (in the area),” he said.

Cayetano denied any link between the exploration in Benham Rise and the dispute in the South China Sea.

The United Nations has declared Benham Rise, now called Philippine Rise, as part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf.

This means the country has the sole right to its resources.

The area, which is located 135 miles off the coast of Aurora province, is believed to be rich in minerals and gas.