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Villar on Benham Rise: China can help us explore

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines- Senator Cynthia Villar on Thursday, March 16, said China can help the Philippines in exploring the Benham Rise amid issues on presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

In a press conference during the sidelines of her visit in this city, Villar said the Philippines is not giving up the Benham, but “negotiations” can also be done.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier disclosed that Chinese vessels were spotted in the area for about three months last year.

Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare underground plateau, is believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

China admitted on the vessels were for “marine research” and their presence is only an exercise of their “freedom of navigation” and “right to innocent passage.”

“So we have to negotiate [because] they can help us there… Kung tutulungan [tayo] na ma-develop natin ‘yung Benham Rise, eh maganda rin yun kasi sabi nila baka may oil doon,” (If they can help us develop Benham Rise, then that would be good because they are saying that there may be oil there.) Villar said.

Villar, sitting as the new chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture, was asked of her stand on the issue of China’s presence in the area since it can host to rich livelihood for fishermen.

She also said negotiating with China over the possible industry in Benham Rise would not mean we give up the territory.

“Hindi naman nating gini-give up ‘yung Benham Rise, ang ina-ano natin, ano’ng magagawa natin doon to benefit the people. So they are looking na beyond fishery, baka may oil,” Villar said.

(We are not give up our rights on Benham RIse, it’s about what we can do there for the benefit of the people. So they are looking beyond fishery, baka may oil.)

Villar also disclosed at least two Chinese companies have reached out to her to “enter” into agriculture.

“‘Yun namang relationship natin sa China, mababalanse naman natin. Kasi alam mo bang ang China, ang laki-laki ng ipapadala sa atin na aid para ma-improve natin ang infrastructure natin,” Villar said.

(Our relationship with China can still be balanced [amid Benham Rise issue]. Because do you know China is sending us big amount of aid to improve our infrastructure?)

“In fact, since two days ago, may kumausap sa akin magkasunod na araw, they want to enter agriculture. So, marami rin tayong makukuha benefit sa kanila in the process,” she added.

(In fact, two days ago, people came to talk to me. They (China) want to enter agriculture. So, we can get a lot of benefits from them in the process.)- Northernforum.net

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