Press Release
February 25, 2018

Sen. Bam Aquino sets stage for scientists, military to speak on Benham issue

Filipino scientists and military experts finally take centerstage as they weigh in on the Benham Rise issue at Monday's (February 26, 2018) Senate hearing, spearheaded by Sen. Bam Aquino

"Pakinggan natin ang panig ng ating mga scientists, researchers at experts. Our Filipino scientists deserve respect, recognition and resources from our government," said Sen. Bam Aquino, who will lead the Senate hearing as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.

"Gusto natin alamin mula sa mga eksperto kung ano ang lawak ng likas na kayamanan ng Pilipinas sa Benham Rise at kung ano nga ba ang banta ng China dito. Tatalakayin rin natin ang kailangan na pondo at tulong para sa ating local research programs," Sen. Bam added.

During the hearing, local scientists are expected to present their research findings and government officials are set to discuss their plans for Benham Rise or Philippine Rise, the 13-million hectares of underwater plateau.

Aside from local scientists, top military and government officials will attend the hearing to shed light on the research conducted recently by China on Benham Rise and discuss other issues surrounding the Philippine territory.

The hearing will tackle Senate Resolutions No. 594 and 611, filed by Senators Bam and Grace Poe, respectively.

Sen. Bam stressed the importance of investigating the matter, saying the country's territory and natural resources are at stake, especially now that China has named five underwater features on the undersea region.

Among those invited to the hearing are Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a known staunch defender of the country's territories, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea and Dr. Fernando Siringan, director of the UP-Maritime Science Institute.

Also invited are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad of the Philippine Navy and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, among others.

Earlier, Sen. Bam urged on the government to provide the necessary support to Filipino scientists in their research and exploration of Benham Rise, instead of allowing foreign countries to do it.

As part of Philippine territory, Sen. Bam insisted that Filipinos should be the ones to explore Benham Rise, a largely untapped Philippine territory thought to be rich in minerals and gas.

"Dapat nang magkaroon ng matibay at malinaw na plano ang pamahalaan sa Philippine Rise, lalo ngayong unti-unti nang kumikilos ang China para ito'y angkinin. Huwag nating isuko na parang West Philippine Sea ang napakahalagang yamang ito," Sen. Bam said.

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