Posts Tagged ‘BRP Gregorio Velasquez’

Philippine Lawmakers’ Groups Wants Investigation of Chinese Maritime Research At Benham Rise — “China always benefits most” — Repeat of China’s ‘modus operandi’ — Could jeopardize Philippine claims

January 30, 2018
The seven, led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, suggested that the House committee on foreign affairs conduct the inquiry. Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Seven leftist party-list lawmakers belonging to the Maka­bayan bloc want the House of Representatives to look into the government-approved Chinese maritime research in Benham Rise.

The seven, led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, suggested that the House committee on foreign affairs conduct the inquiry.

In Resolution No 1623, Zarate and his colleagues said the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf awarded Benham Rise, renamed Philippine Rise, to the Philippines in 2012.

“Despite the Chinese government’s adverse view on Philippine Rise, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) granted China a permit to conduct maritime research in the eastern seaboard of the Philippines starting Jan. 24,” they said.

According to Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo, who blew the whistle on the DFA’s approval of China’s application, the “research” will last for a month up to Feb. 25.

Makabayan noted that various groups and individuals have aired opposition to the Chinese expedition “as it appears to be a repeat of China’s ‘modus operandi’ used in 2005 under the Arroyo-era joint marine seismic undertaking (JMSU) that jeopardize our claims in the Recto (Reed) Bank.”

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Chinese ocean research ship Ke Xue

“Under the JMSU that the then Arroyo administration entered into with China, the latter was able to discover and confirm the enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto Reed Bank, where one field already holds about 2.7-3.4 trillion cubic feet of the valuable resource,” the lawmakers said.

They said China did not share with the Philippine government the information it gathered in the joint marine seismic study.

They claimed that China “is now very zealous in taking over these rich natural gas deposits as evidenced by its aggressive stance, even constructing islands and placing missile systems to control the area.”

They noted that the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources already conducted a survey of Philippine Rise between 2004-2008 and produced a highly detailed 3D digital bathymetric model done by Filipino scientists.

Another state agency, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture, has also been conducting annual fisheries research and experimental fishing expeditions in Philippine Rise to determine the tuna fishery potential of its waters, Zarate and his colleagues said.

The UP National Institute for Geological Sciences (NIGS) and UP Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) have also been collaborating with counterpart institutions from Korea and Japan since 2016 to begin initial exploration of the seabed in the Philippine Rise, they said.

Local scientists capable

They said other Filipino marine geologists and biologists have produced academic papers and analyses for policy considerations and have been analyzing samples and observations gathered from research cruises and have made interesting findings and potential discoveries.

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Philippine Navy’s first dedicated research vessel BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR 702)

“The Philippines, in fact, already has a deep-sea research vessel, known as BRP Gregorio Velasquez, that can conduct its own study,” they added.

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BRP Gregorio Velasquez

They pointed out that contrary to the claims of the Duterte administration, the Philippines does not have to rely on China to study the Philippine Rise.

Alejano earlier revealed the arrival of Chinese vessel Ke Hue Hao (sic) in Philippine waters on Jan. 22, or two days ahead of its supposed month-long research.

He said the Chinese ship was located northeast of Palanan, Isabela yesterday.

Alejano reiterated its appeal to the DFA and other concerned agencies, including the University of the Philippines, to closely monitor activities in the Philippine Rise.

“What we should make sure now is compliance of China with all the requirements demanded by the Philippine government as conditions to the permit issued. In particular, we should be wary on the sharing of information that will be culled from the expedition. Filipino scientists on board should be given equal access to all results of the research,” he said.

Alejano also chided administration officials for saying Filipinos alone could not do research in Philippine Rise because of the huge cost involved.

“It is not because our scientists do not have the ability to conduct research, it is because our government does not allot sufficient funding for it. In fact, there have already been expeditions there by Filipinos to support our claim over Benham Rise before it was awarded to us in 2012,” he said.

He said the BFAR had proposed funding for a research facility in Benham Rise during last year’s budget deliberations, but Congress rejected the proposal.

“This administration has shown no interest and support on strengthening our presence in Benham. Thus, it has no ascendancy to say that Filipinos cannot conduct research in the area given its lack of support,” he said.

Zarate criticized the DFA for its “precipitous claim” that the Chinese “research” in the Philippine Rise would benefit the Philippines.

“If we are to study recent history of Chinese marine studies, like the joint marine seismic undertaking (JMSU) during the Arroyo administration, it can be seen that it is China that rakes in most of the benefits. In contrast, what we got are just useless blurry pictures,” he said.

He said China discovered the location of rich marine resources in Philippine waters through the joint marine seismic study.

“The Chinese did not share the information they gathered with the Arroyo government,” he said.

Zarate recalled that Bayan Muna challenged the marine seismic study before the Supreme Court.

The case forced then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to no longer renew the marine seismic study agreement, he said.

“China became more aggressive after confirming the presence of resources through the information it gathered via the JMSU. Chinese ships aggressively cruised the seas near Palawan in 2007, even if it was well outside the South China Sea and the JMSU area,” he said.

He said the “betrayal of our national patrimony and sovereignty is being repeated by the present administration in the case of Benham or Philippine Rise.”

Nothing new

The UPMSI, meanwhile, said its collaborative research with China on Benham Rise is just one of the many similar arrangements in the past with other countries, including the United States.

In a statement, UPMSI said it “has been collaborating with oceanographers from different countries (such as the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan) on research along the Pacific seaboard as early as the 1980s.”

UPMSI’s clarification came on the heels of criticism sparked by the government’s allowing Chinese researchers to conduct a scientific expedition in the Philippine Rise.

It its statement, the UPMSI stressed the importance of international cooperation when it comes to research that involves large-scale processes.

It explained that its research partnership with the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences followed similar studies on ocean currents in the area conducted with US scientists from 2011 to 2014.

“Understanding the dynamics of these major ocean current systems is complex and requires extensive resources. For research questions that involve large-scale processes beyond national jurisdiction, international collaboration is important because the collective efforts, data and information from all countries involved will enable us to acquire a better understanding of what is really happening,” it added.

“Results from these (previous) cruises clearly showed that measurements over longer periods were needed, validating the insights from pioneering research that started in the early 1980s. Studies with long-term measurements can only be achieved if resources from different countries are combined and shared,” said the institute.

“In 2016, the Chinese oceanographers initiated discussions about possible collaboration on this particular (research)… As it was related to our research interests, we continue to explore ways to meaningfully engage with them,” it added.

The UPMSI said the collaboration supports its initiative to develop a national oceanographic program that can help in understanding better the changing climate and ocean processes.

The collaborative research involves a study on temperature, salinity and current distributions in several locations in the Philippine Rise region. UPMSI said instruments of the Chinese institute will be used in the research.

The research activity, UPMSI said, will focus on the North Equatorial Current, which splits off the Philippine coast to form northward and southward moving bodies of water known as the Kuroshio Current and the Mindanao Current, respectively.

The UPMSI said studies on the currents are necessary as these affect climate in the region.

“The Kuroshio is responsible for the transport of heat to the rest of the North Pacific and therefore is an important driver of the regional climate and even the El Niño/La Niña cycles,” it said.

“To understand the Kuroshio’s role on climate and to help develop predictive models, we need to know how often and by how much it varies; thus the need to measure the currents and temperature structure over a long period of time,” UPMSI added. – With Janvic Mateo


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Philippines Prepares Protest vs China Over South China Sea Island Grab

March 21, 2017
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is preparing to formally protest China’s plan to install a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in violation of a ruling by a United Nations-backed international tribunal declaring the shoal a common fishing ground outside any country’s jurisdiction.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the administration’s planned course of action was in accordance with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s suggestion that a strong formal protest against Beijing be filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague.

“I think so, there will be (a protest to be filed). Medyo malakas-lakas ang ifa-file (A stronger one will be filed),” Aguirre said when asked about the issue in a chance interview.

Aguirre’s statement came on the heels of President Duterte’s voicing helplessness against China’s continued buildup of its forces in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

But Aguirre assured the public that Duterte is committed to protect and defend the nation’s sovereignty despite the latter’s pronouncement that he could not stop China from building a structure at the shoal. “Definitely, he will not let go of (Panatag shoal),” Aguirre stressed.

“As a matter of fact, we are strengthening the relationship with the US,” Aguirre pointed out, indicating a potential shift from Duterte’s earlier declaration of separation from the US and a pivot to China.

The filing of a protest was among the five-point strategy suggested by Carpio for dealing with China’s reported plan to set up facilities at Panatag shoal.

The SC justice has also suggested sending Philippine Navy vessels to the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine Navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he pointed out.

Carpio also stressed the government may ask the US to declare the shoal part of Philippine territory and accept the superpower’s offer to hold joint patrols in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

The SC magistrate also advised Duterte to “avoid any act, statement or declaration that expressly or impliedly waives Philippine sovereignty to any Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.”

Carpio stressed that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 (Philippine Baselines Law) and that President Duterte has the constitutional duty to defend it from China’s incursion.

He earlier warned that the installation of a radar system at the Panatag shoal will complete China’s air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.

In 2012, the Chinese seized the Panatag Shoal after a tense standoff with Philippine Navy personnel who had tried to arrest Chinese poachers in the area. The poachers were allowed to return to China with their illegal harvest of baby sharks, endangered corals and giant clams. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.

A ruling in July last year by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague upheld the Philippines’ entitlements in the West Philippine Sea but declared Panatag a common fishing ground. The shoal is only about 230 kilometers from the nearest coast in Luzon and close to 2,700 kilometers from China’s nearest coast in Hainan.

Defending sovereignty

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made it clear Duterte has not surrendered the country’s sovereignty over Panatag Shoal or any other area within the country’s EEZ either seized or being coveted by China.

“He has said time and again that he will defend and protect the interests of the Filipino people and will take necessary action at a time most fitting and advantageous to us,” Abella said.

“Furthermore, PRRD has repeatedly asserted that RP is not giving up its claims and our entitlements over the area,” Abella said, referring to Duterte by his presidential initials.

He noted even China has not issued an official stand on reports it was preparing to build a radar station at Panatag Shoal. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), he said, is verifying such reports.

“The DFA is in the process of verifying alleged announcements of proposals to build structures in WPS (West Philippine Sea), since these statements do not reflect the official position of China,” he said.

Duterte earlier declared that the Philippines – with its weak armed forces – cannot stop Beijing from building a radar station at Panatag Shoal.

This prompted Carpio to remind Duterte of his constitutional duty to defend the country from Chinese incursion.

Panatag is part of the national territory, Carpio pointed out, as stipulated under the Philippine Baselines Law.

In his speech in Myanmar Monday, Duterte again ruled out invoking the UN arbitration ruling when dealing with Beijing. But he also vowed to raise the matter if and when China starts extracting mineral resources like oil or uranium in disputed areas.

“Now, if China starts getting oil or uranium or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, I will do something and tell them, ‘We own it. You claim it by historical right, by judgment I won and it’s mine,’” he said.

Duterte also stressed he would not send forces to confront the Chinese in disputed areas to avoid bloodshed.

“First hour, they are finished already. We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” Duterte added.

Not defenseless

Meanwhile, the lawmaker who filed an impeachment complaint against Duterte has asked the President not to portray the country as defenseless against China’s maritime incursion.

“His statement that we cannot do anything is not true. In fact, we have a lot of non-military and non-confrontational options. He just doesn’t want to do them,” Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo said.

During the campaign, then candidate Duterte said if the Chinese intruded into Panatag, he would rush there in a jet ski to confront the intruders.

Alejano has described as “treason” the President’s admission that he had allowed a Chinese research ship to survey Benham Rise, which is part of the country’s territory.

He said Duterte’s statement on China’s building plan at Panatag Shoal “is a defeatist narrative fitting squarely to what China wants us to feel.”

The lawmaker advised the President to listen to Carpio and revisit various recommendations proposed in the past by national leaders and security officials to address Chinese intrusions into Philippine waters.

“He can consult his national security team and other leaders,” he added.

Alejano lamented the Duterte administration is speaking with discordant voices in dealing with China.

He noted that while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has denounced the presence of China’s research ship in Benham Rise, the President admitted he had allowed it without informing his defense chief.

Alejano urged the President to send the Coast Guard or even the Navy to patrol the Panatag Shoal area.

“The shoal is located 230 kilometers from Luzon, while it is 2,659 kilometers away from the Chinese mainland. Logistically, the replenishing of supplies such as food and fuel will be a challenge for China, not so for our troops since it is closer to our shores,” he said.

“We can strategically deploy and train our fishermen to utilize the natural resources in the area. We could provide them with study vessels and advanced communication system so that we could aid or defend them should they be threatened by Chinese ships,” he said.

He said Duterte should learn a lesson or two from Vietnam in protecting the country’s interest.

Alejano recalled that in one confrontation with China near the disputed Paracels, Vietnam lost several troops.

The former Marine captain said the country could also invoke its security alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.

In case of a shooting war, he said he would be “more than willing to fight for our country.”

The military, for its part, said it is ready to deploy a navy ship – recently acquired from the US – to conduct oceanographic survey of Benham Rise.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said they are just awaiting a written order from Lorenzana or from the President for the deployment of BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) to Benham Rise.

“We have one survey vessel and the Philippine Navy has the capability to do maritime research, but so far we don’t have the instructions,” Arevalo said. The other survey vessel acquired from the US was BRP Andres Bonifacio.  – With Christina Mendez, Jaime Laude


 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.