Silliman president to politicians: Protect Benham Rise, not personal interests
NEGROS ORIENTAL, Philippines – Silliman University President Ben Malayang urged politicians to "adjust to what needs to be done" to protect Benham Rise.
In a forum at Silliman University on Monday, March 19, Malayang said experts and those in the technical field "adjust" to the interests of the politicians instead.
"We in the technical field almost always have to adjust to what the politicians want, rather than politicians adjusting to what needs to be done in order to protect our environment," he said. (FAST FACTS: What you should know about Benham Rise)
The university president also said that talks on the resource-rich continental shelf should be a matter of national interest, instead of politicians pursuing personal interests.
"[There] should be a change in fundamental discourse on how to manage our natural resources...where the fundamental interest is the interest of the Filipino people and not the interest of politicians who protect their own interests," Malayang said.
He also refuted Malacañang's claim that Filipinos need other countries to conduct research in Benham Rise.
"Contrary to what politicians say that we don't have the capability to explore [Benham Rise] and we need other countries, we could," Malayang said.
"But what is more fundamental is, do we have political leaderships here in the country that will ensure that we have political will and capability to protect our national interests?" he added.
The Department of Foreigns Affairs drew flak for allowing China to do research in Benham Rise while supposedly rejecting a similar request from a French think tank. (READ: PH can ban China in Benham, but not other nations – Carpio)
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal also questioned DFA's data, which gives an impression there are many ongoing research activities in the continental shelf when, in truth, there is not much. (READ: DFA vague on number of Benham Rise research requests)
Benham Rise, which Duterte has renamed Philippine Rise, is a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau thought to be rich in minerals and gas. – Rappler.com