THE Philippine government is set to deploy before June 12, Independence Day, at least 10 “sovereign markers” to assert the country’s claim on the Philippine Rise.
National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. made the remark on Monday at the sidelines of the Senate inquiry into exploration studies at Philippine Rise, also known as Benhm Rise, and West Philippine Sea, as well as the state of maritime research by Filipino scientists.
“If you’re going to put up a rig there just to say that’s our Philippine Rise, you might have to spend P6 billion. So, why not put up sovereign markers instead?” Esperon said in an interview.
He said the buoys would cost the government P120 million and were being assembled by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
He also said that the commercial development of marine wealth in the Philippine Rise “should be opened for MSR (marine science research) to both Filipino and foreign scientists.”
“By doing so, the Philippines also improves its own capabilities to conduct MSR by joining or partnering with foreign scientists. The country could develop capabilities to exploit marine resources, pharmaceuticals, food and others,” Esperon said.
The Philippine Rise is said to have huge deposits of solid nodules of methane that could potentially turn the Philippines into a natural gas exporter. It is a seismically active undersea region estimated to cover an area of about 13 million hectares located east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater, with the shallowest point located off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela.
He reiterated that the government had suspended the issuance of permits to foreigners who want to conduct MSR in the area, pending an executive order itemizing the new requirements for the granting of such permits.
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, said the country must find research partners who will follow the country’s rules, during the hearing of the Committee on Science and Technology on the Philippine Rise.
“It’s hard to partner with someone who is stubborn. We should find partners who will follow our rules,” said Aquino, who led the Senate hearing.
He made the remark amid revelations that in previous years, China violated Philippine sovereign rights when it conducted hydrographic surveys in the Philippine Rise “without required consent” from Manila.
Esperon said each of the sovereign markers or buoys would cost P12 million and would be placed near the Benham Bank. He said it would be “impractical” to put up a rig in the area due to huge waves.