The government has approved the applications of the United States, Japan, and South Korea to conduct research in the resource-rich Philippine Rise, which presidential spokesperson Harry Roque hoped would prove that the Duterte administration is not favoring China.
In a statement, he said that the latest development was from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Request applications to conduct research by the United States, Japan, and South Korea have likewise been approved. This hopefully puts to rest the issue that the current administration is favoring China [on] the issue of Benham Rise,” he said.
The statement came after Roque drew flak for saying that conducting a research in the undersea region is “capital expensive.” He was asked to respond to Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s remarks against China’s research in what was previously known as Benham Rise, off eastern Luzon. The senator questioned why the Philippines needed to partner with China.
University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay Batongbacal said Roque’s statement was “completely wrong,” “based on ignorance,” and a “serious disservice” to Filipinos.
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