Benham Rise visits may be put in writing
By Genalyn Kabiling and Hannah Torregoza / March 17, 2017/ Manila Bulletin
President Rodrigo Duterte is inclined to put in writing an agreement allowing China’s research ships into local waters.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella assured that the President remains committed to protecting and defending the nation’s interests in the wake of criticisms arising from the presence of Chinese survey ships over the resource-rich area located east of Luzon.
“I’m sure he is,” Abella said in Palace press conference, when asked if the President is open to heeding some lawmakers’ call to put down in black and white the reported research deal with China.
The President recently triggered a political firestorm when he admitted on national television that he allowed Chinese surveillance ships into Philippine waters as part of an agreement.
Duterte said there was “no incursion” when Chinese survey ships were spotted sailing through Benham Rise due to an invitation he had extended to them. He added that he was advised ahead of the passage of the Chinese vessels.
The President’s remarks prompted some lawmakers to call for an inquiry into Duterte’s supposed research deal with China amid concerns on sovereignty issues.
Abella admitted that such agreement was not done in written form.
“For all it’s worth, it was not a formally written agreement…but basically they just talked,” he said. “The President was still very, very careful that he [was] protecting our sovereign rights over the Benham [Rise],” he added.
Abella also tried to downplay the contradicting government positions on the Benham Rise issue. “It was not in disagreement but they were simply referring to separate things,” he said.
At the Senate, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian announced that he would fast-track the passage of the legislation seeking to create the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA), a multi-agency government body tasked to oversee the defense and development of the territory. Read more…