BFAR’s submissive statement in Benham Rise hit
Manila, Philippines – The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Monday lashed out at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) over its clumsy statement regarding China’s research plan in the Philippine Rise (formerly known as Benham Rise).
“This wasn’t what we want to hear from the Bureau of Fisheries who is supposed to be in the frontline of defending Philippine Rise’s marine resources. After some time of keeping mum in the midst of the raging controversy regarding the Philippine Rise, the BFAR just finally came out but with a cowardly submissive position,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
According to BFAR Director Eduardo Gongona during a round-table discussion last week, the issue is “not confrontational” and that it is okay for us to share resources with China to supply its citizens with our marine products. But the group said the agreement between the Philippine government and Beijing has only reached a joint research, not a sharing of resources.
“BFAR has already offered the sharing of resources when the Philippine government and China have only achieved a joint research agreement in the first place.The country has yet to fully tap the resources in Philippine Rise, so why would we let other countries to lead the exploration and exploitation,” added Hicap.
Philippine Rise is a 13-million-hectare resource rich underwater plateau located opposite to the disputed South China Sea, it has been declared by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in April 2012 as part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Through the Executive Order No. 25 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in May last year, the undersea feature has been renamed from Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.
Aside from China, the Duterte administration has approved research applications from several countries such as Japan, United States, and South Korea; which was opposed by the fishers group, saying it is a gross violation of our patrimony and tantamount to surrender of our sovereign rights.
“In case Director Gongona was just born yesterday, the objective of China in Philippine Rise is not to provide food for its citizens, but to exploit its resources, especially the oil and gas reserves for its greedy industrial activities, as well as it is part of Beijing’s territorial expansion to consolidate its power in the region,“
“The BFAR should be alarmed over China’s keen interest in Philippine Rise and immediately craft a policy prohibiting foreign vessels, not only China’s, to enter our exclusive continental shelf in order to preserve the resource-rich plateau for future use of the Filipino fisherfolk,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya said the bureau of fisheries must outrightly reject the joint research with China, U.S., Japan, and South Korea because it violates not only our sovereign rights but also our right to explore our own fishing resources. ###