UP expert fears misuse of Benham

THE Philippines officially allowed Chinese scientists to survey ocean currents in the country’s northeastern seaboard—but it is also possible for data gathered from a scientific expedition to be used for military purposes, a maritime law expert said Wednesday.

Professor and director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Jay Batongbacal warned that the climate-focused research findings can be used for “some kind of military strategic advantage.”

“The data about currents can really be beneficial because you can gain knowledge of the weather and better predict La Niña and El Niño and prepare for disasters,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English at a roundtable discussion Wednesday.

“On the other hand, it’s true also that you can use the same data, use other methodologies and gain some kind of military or strategic advantage,” he said.

Earlier, the Philippine govenrment announced that it has officially allowed Chinese scientists to conduct scientific research in the country’s territory, Benham Rise.

The government has been criticized for allowing China to explore the underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora province.

The research vessel Ke Xua Hao, which carries Chinese scientists and supposedly four Filipinos, arrived northeast of Palanan, Isabela on Jan. 23, one day before schedule, to carry out a survey of ocean currents that scientists believe drive climate phenomena.

The Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences was granted permission by the Department of Foreign Affairs to conduct the study, provided that its scientists are joined by Filipinos, among other requirements.

Batongbacal said that the DFA data on Benham Rise can also be “misleading.”

“It can be misleading because it gives you the wrong impression that there are so many researches going on in Benham Rise,” Batongbacal said.

The DFA last week released its data to the media where it lumped together the number of marine scientific rresearch requests from different countries for Benham Rise and Luzon Strait.

But Batongbacal said that lumping together the MSR of Benham Rise and Luzon Strait may not be proper because both are “totally different areas.”

He said that the government could not protect the Philippine interests if the present administration itself is not fully aware, does not pay attention, and does not understand these details.

Data from the DFA revealed that there are 13 MRS in the region.

The US, it stated, has been conducting research in Benham Rise since 2005 while China has been requesting an MSR in the region since 2004.

Also on Wednesday, the Philippine military said the presence of nine Chinese vessels in the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal was nothing out of the ordinary

GMA-7 quoted Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Norther Luzon Command spokesman, as saying an aerial survey showed four Chinese Coast Guard vessels, four unknown vessels from China, and a Chinese fishing boat in the area Two of the Chinese vessels were found inside the shoal.

He said there were also four Filipino fishing vessels in the area.

http://www.thestandard.com.ph/news/top-stories/257654/up-expert-fears-misuse-of-benham.html

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