CONDUCTING scientific research is a way to assert the Philippines’ territorial integrity in the South China Sea, according to a marine scientist, following a recent incident of Chinese aggression within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the disputed waters.    

“There are other ways on how to assert our rights and our claims in the West Philippine Sea aside from militarization,” Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute Deo Florence L. Onda told DZMM TeleRadyo on Sunday.   

“Because marine scientific research is protected under UNCLOS, we can also send more scientists to do research claiming that these are ours.”  

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international treaty, adopted and signed in 1982, which defines coastal and maritime boundaries to regulate seabed exploration not within territorial claims and to distribute revenue from regulated exploration.  

China has already established three research stations in the disputed waterway, Mr. Onda said, which in effect strengthened their claim. At the same time, Chinese coast guards hinder and chase after Philippine academic vessels.  

“During our Pag-asa expedition, there were areas that we could not reach because the Chinese Coast Guard kept following us,” Mr. Onda, who takes part in several marine research voyages in the disputed sea, said.  

He added that some of their previous expeditions were also canceled due to “security threats.”  

Nonetheless, he assured that Filipino researchers are working together with the government to further activities in the resource-rich South China Sea. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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