Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations. Photo from Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences website

Chinese research ship ‘Kexue’ to conduct research in Philippine waters
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) - January 18, 2018 - 2:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — China will deploy its most sophisticated research ship to study Philippine waters, including the potentially resource-rich Benham Rise (Philippine Rise).

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) earlier slammed the Department of Foreign Affairs for allowing the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) to conduct research in waters off Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and off Eastern Mindanao.

The Chinese marine exploration will take place on January 24 to February 25 this year.

READ: Alejano: DFA approved Chinese think tank request to study Philippine waters

In a press conference in Beijing last Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang confirmed that Chinese research vessel "Kexue" will survey Philippine eastern waters, adding that such a cooperation would further strengthen the two countries’ bilateral relations.

“China commends this decision made by the Philippine side on agreeing to China's scientific activities and offering facilitation,” Lu said.

“We welcome Philippine scientific research institutions' participation and would like to work with them to advance maritime practical cooperation in marine research and other fields so as to create a favorable environment for the sound, steady and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” he added.

The $87.5-million Kexue was handed over to IO-CAS in 2012, newspaper China Daily reported. In September 5 last year, Kexue reportedly finished a month-long scientific exploration of the western Pacific Ocean.

Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations.

Kexue can also conduct water body detection, atmospheric exploration, deep-sea environment exploration and remote sensing information verification.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ undisputed claim to the Benham Rise.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed an Executive Order officially renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” to assert the country’s sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area in 2016.

The Philippine Navy now regularly patrols the continental shelf.

According to Alejano, the Chinese researchers will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute “as a requirement.”

Alejano also revealed that a similar plea was lodged by French-based non-profit organization Tara Expeditions Foundation, but it was declined by the DFA.

The lawmaker said Tara Expeditions was a better choice if Manila was seeking additional resources and manpower to study eastern waters, noting that France, unlike China, has no territorial conflict with the Philippines.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the law gives equal chance to foreign countries to study Philippine waters as long as there are Filipinos on board.

Foreign marine researchers must also share their findings and data with their Filipino counterparts, Cayetano added.

READ: Cayetano: 'Same rules for all countries' seeking to study Philippine waters

 

BENHAM RISE
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