MANILA Malacanang on Tuesday disclosed the government's plan to buy more marine vessels that could be used for scientific research and exploration of natural resources in the Philippine Rise.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte had discussed with his Cabinet members the need to invest in maritime survey ships during last Monday's cabinet meeting.
The President and the Cabinet noted that we should invest in maritime survey ships so that we could better assess the resources that we can exploit in the Philippine Rise, Roque said during Palace briefing.
Roque said the initial plan was to use Malampaya funds to buy the maritime research vessels.
But it was noted that there may be legal questions because the Malampaya funds could be utilized for energy related projects, he explained.
He said Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has assured the government has money to buy marine survey ships even if we do not have to use Malampaya funds.
So the government will buy more research vessels, Roque said.
Roque said Duterte has issued directive emphasizing the Filipino national's sovereign rights in the "undisputed" Philippine Rise.
Exploration for natural resources, conduct of scientific research, laying of submarine cables and building of artificial islands in the Philippine Rise are reserved for Philippine nationals, Roque said.
During last month's Cabinet meeting, Duterte ordered to stop all marine researches and explorations by foreign scientists in the Philippine Rise located east of Luzon.
Among foreign countries that have previously conducted research in Philippine Rise include the United States, China, Japan, Korea and Germany.
In 2012, the United Nations on the Limits of the Continental Shelf declared Philippine Rise, known then as Benham Rise, as part of the Philippine continental shelf believed to be rich in mineral and natural gas deposits.
Source: Philippine News Agency