Esperon: Gov't set to lift moratorium on scientific research in PH waters
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is set to lift the ban on marine scientific research by foreign vessels and institutions in Philippine waters, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said on Friday, October 25.
Esperon said this was in line with the government's initiative to beef up scientific research in Philippine maritime zones with the goal of improving the sustainable development of the country's marine resources.
"We will build a national academic research fleet and we will lift shortly the moratorium on marine scientific research by foreign governments and institutions," Esperon said during a press briefing on the government's upcoming National Marine Summit which would be held October 29 to 30 in Manila.
The Duterte administration, Esperon said, was also set to release an updated national maritime policy that pays closer attention to maximizing, developing, and protecting marine resources. Apart from this, the policy would focus on security concerns and plans to strengthen the country's ability to secure maritime features in Philippine waters, including the West Philippine Sea.
Recalling the ban: Prior to Esperon's announcement, government suspended in 2018 issuing permits to conduct marine scientific research.
Esperon, who was among those in charge of approving permits, said this was largely due to certain institutions that conducted research in Philippine waters despite not securing permits from the Philippine government. (LOOK: Chinese survey ship found operating in PH waters)
Aside from this, Esperon said there were also cases when some permit applications were denied because they would not allow Filipino scientists to board their research vessels, which was among the requirements to conduct research in Philippine waters.
The additional requirements for assessing new research applications by foreign entities were put in place after President Rodrigo Duterte revoked all licenses granted to foreign groups for research in Benham Rise in February 2018.
What to expect: With the temporary lifting of the moratorium, Esperson said the government will again begin processing of permits for marine scientific research.
"We are opening again the processing for permits of marine scientific research since we believe academe has to be deployed and do research for us and for all of mankind to get to know more our maritime domain," he said.
The processing of permits will be a big help to improve the capability of Philippine universities and agencies to conduct their own research. Esperon said the University of the Philippine Marine Science Institute was acquiring one vessel while more were sought for the Department of Energy and National Institute for Geological Science.
Why this matters: Philippine waters are known to hold vast resources, most of which have yet to be fully tapped and more importantly, protected. Marine scientists have pointed out that overfishing, illegal fishing, climate change, and the destruction of critical marine habitats are taking a toll on the country’s ability to produce food.
The country's waters are also home to a diverse number of species with the Philippines considered as the "center of the center" of marine biodiversity.
Esperon said scientific research was thus vital to improve the protection and development of Philippine waters.
"Marine scientific research is the first step for the sustainable development of marine resources which we will develop both Filipinos and the rest of mankind," he said. – Rappler.com