DFA: Benham Rise belongs to Filipinos


By Sammy F. Martin

MANILA, Mar. 14 (PNA) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday reiterated that Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In a press briefing, DFA Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said Benham Rise is part of our marine territory “that is why we exercise our marine rights and jurisdiction.”

“We recognize freedom of navigation including the right of innocent passage of other countries passing our EEZ,” he told reporters.

As we exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction, Jose pointed out that the Philippines has the sole right to explore, exploit and manage the natural resources of Benham Rise.

“I think it is our responsibility to conserve and protect what is ours against anyone who want to enter our EEZ without our permission,” Jose said.

The spokesman said that Benham Rise is part of our maritime territory within the EEZ, including the extended continental shelf.

He emphasized that no country can claim Benham Rise because it is very clear that it is within our territory under the 2012 United Nations ruling on this issue.

“I think yung sinasabi ng China is may karapatan yung ibang bansa dito dahil tayo naman ay nag-aadhere sa rule of law, sinasabi nga sa UNCLOS that any country have the right to pass by our maritime territory under the principle of freedom of navigation and right of innocent passage. We recognize those principles,” he noted.

Asked about the note the Philippines sent to China, he said the Philippines is asking clarification why their ship passed by at slow pace which is not normal.

The Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise, a 13-million-hectare area located east of Luzon island and believed to be rich in gas, was approved by the United Nations in 2012.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had acknowledged the 2012 ruling of the United Nations but said “it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory.”

Geng confirmed Chinese vessels for “marine research” passed through Benham Rise, but insisted this was only in exercise of the principle of “freedom of navigation” and “right to innocent passage.”

Related story

Lorenzana to Navy: Drive away Chinese survey ships off Benham Rise

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, March 9 (PNA) —- Should another Chinese survey ship appeared off Benham Rise, which is near Aurora and Isabela, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered the Philippine Navy (PN) to accost and drive away the vessel from the country’s eastern seaboard.

He issued this statement during the first-ever “Kapihan sa Kampo” held at the Honor Hall of the National Defense College of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Thursday.

“Another thing, one of their survey ship is also plying the Benham Rise already, last year, I think it was monitored for about three months going there, so I have ordered the Navy that if they see this survey ship this year start to accost them and driving them away also from the eastern side of the Philippines,” the DND chief stressed.

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be a fuel-rich area and awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012.

Previously, Chinese survey ships were also seen off Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank surveying the sea bed for possible mineral deposits, he added.

The Chinese has gained total control of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag) after a stand-off with the PN in April 2012.

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