Philippines to lift moratorium on foreign research ships in its waters

A Philippine Coast Guard ship sails along Benham Rise in this May 6, 2017 photo released by the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division. (AFP)
Updated 25 October 2019

Philippines to lift moratorium on foreign research ships in its waters

  • The ban on foreign scientific research last year focused on an area called the Benham Rise
  • The United Nations in 2012 declared Benham Rise part of the Philippines’ continental shelf

MANILA: The Philippines will lift a 2018 moratorium on foreign scientific research in its exclusive economic zone so it can exploit marine resources, the national security adviser said on Friday.
President Rodrigo Duterte banned all scientific research by foreigners off the Philippines’ Pacific coast in February last year and told the navy to chase away unauthorized vessels.
National security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that allowing foreign governments and entities to conduct maritime research again is “good for us ... because we get to know more of the maritime domain.”
The Philippines is also beefing up its capabilities to enforce fisheries laws, Esperon said, with plans to acquire more coast guard assets and develop multi-purpose fishing vessels.
“Whatever we spend on defense should strengthen our position on developing our maritime domain especially the West Philippine Sea into what we call the blue economy,” Esperon told a media briefing.
Manila calls the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea.
Capitalizing on the so-called blue economy, such as using the oceans to generate energy, or tapping its oil and mineral resources, could help boost economic growth in the Philippines, where one-fifth of its 107 million people still live below the national poverty line.
The ban on foreign scientific research last year focused on an area called the Benham Rise, which the United Nations in 2012 declared part of the Philippines’ continental shelf.
It is believed to be rich in biodiversity and tuna, and scientists from the United States and Japan have surveyed it numerous times.
However, Chinese interest has caused concern among Philippine nationalists mistrustful of its intentions after decades of disputes and perceived encroachments by Beijing in the South China Sea.
Before the moratorium, Esperon said “some institutions and entities,” came in without permission, while others did not allow Filipino scientists to board their vessels. He did not identify them.
This year, two Chinese research vessels were spotted lingering in Philippine-controlled waters, which became the subject of a diplomatic protest in August.
The Philippines has also protested the presence of more than 100 Chinese fishing vessels off Thitu a tiny island it holds near China’s militarized artificial island at Subi Reef.
China claims it has historic right of ownership to almost the entire South China Sea, despite a 2016 international arbitration ruling that said that claim had no legal basis under international law.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to parts of it.
Thitu island, the Philippines most strategic outpost in the South China Sea, is in the midst of major upgrades to its dilapidated facilities, Esperon said.

Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

Updated 08 April 2020

Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

  • Repeat offenders face $8,000 fines or up to one year in prison

SEOUL: South Korea is considering electronic wristbands as a way to track people who break quarantine conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea follows a rising number of people flouting the rules, leaving their homes despite the government’s tough stance against violations.

South Korea reported 53 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total number of infections to 10,384, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the total number of reported deaths rose to 200. 

“A majority of people are following self-isolation rules, but there have been some cases of (people) leaving (designated venues),” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the Ministry of Health, told reporters. “Unless the self-isolation rules are observed, it will make the government consider various options to prevent such a move.”

Authorities were looking for practical and effective ways to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities, he said, adding there were concerns about electronic wristbands in terms of privacy and the infringements of rights.

The electronic wristband, which would be connected to a mobile app, would trigger an alarm and alert authorities when it moved more than 10 meters away from the smartphone installed with the app, ministry officials said.

South Korea has a two-week quarantine period for all international arrivals. Authorities have found 75 people breaching the self-isolation rules, and six of them are to be prosecuted.

The government has increased penalties for quarantine violators to a maximum one-year jail term or $8,000 in fines.

Several people, including foreign nationals, have in recent weeks broken the self-isolation rules put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The city of Gunpo, south of Seoul, reported a married couple in their 50s to the police for ignoring the rules. Health authorities found that the couple, who had tested positive for the virus, went out several times during the self-isolation period to visit an art gallery, lottery shops, supermarkets, and banks.  

In Gunsan, around 270 kilometers south of Seoul, three Vietnamese students were found leaving their quarantine premises without permission on April 3. They went out, leaving their smartphones behind to avoid being tracked by the authorities. The Ministry of Justice is now considering deporting the students.