Esperon recommends use of satellites to monitor Benham Rise

MANILA -- To better monitor foreign maritime activity in the Benham Rise, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Wednesday recommended the procurement and use of satellites.

When you have an EEZ (exclusive economic zone that is as big as what we have, then we would require to be able to have awareness of everything that's going there, Esperon said during a Senate panel hearing on the proposed creation of a Benham Rise Development Authority (BDRA.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, the Philippines has the exclusive right to over 200 nautical miles off its coast.

We have our Nomad (planes which are giving us some good pictures but we don't even have satellites. We are one big country with a big EEZ that doesn't have image satellites much more communication satellites, he added.

Esperon explained that the government should build those capabilities to have a better view and management of Philippine resources.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, agreed with Esperon noting that it is important to use such technologies to determine what a Chinese survey ship was doing when it was seen plying Benham Rise for around three months last year.

Chinese Embassy maintained that they simply passed by international sea noting that they had the right of freedom of navigation.

We lack technology and equipment. The Security Adviser (Esperon recommended the use of satellite to know not just the direction of the ship but also what the ship is doing, Gatchalian told reporters in an interview.

Gatchalian pointed out that while the government did have technology to find out where the ship is, it did not have technology to find out what the ship is doing.

I think what we need to know right now is what the (Chinese ship exactly did, he added.

Synchronization

The neophyte senator also pointed out that because Pres. Duterte is the country's chief policy maker, agencies had to synchronize their policies with the President's policies.

We clarified from DFA what are the process and protocols. They need to synchronize this with the policy of the President. The President is our chief policy maker and from that policy emanates the process, he said.

He also said that the Philippines had the right to partner with any countries when it comes to research and maritime research.

The research ships must file for permission with the DFA but there is already the general invitation from the President. It's still necessary that's why we still have the application, he explained.

There is the general invitation that is extended to neighboring countries but there are still protocols to followChina, he added.

He also assured that security threats should not be a cause for alarm at present and that concerned government agencies are currently looking into its capabilities.

Is it just the ships of China we are not aware of or we are generally weak in overseeing the EEZ? That is why I am advocating the strengthening of our awareness, surveillance capabilities, Esperon said.

The Benham Rise is a 13 million-hectare underwater landmass that is about 250 kilometers off the coastline of Aurora province.

It officially became part of the Philippines in 2012 when the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf ruled that the Benham Rise area was fell under its exclusive economic zone.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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