PH Coast Guard patrols Benham Rise, too
PH Coast Guard patrols Benham Rise, too
The civilian maritime law enforcement agency sends its Islander planes to patrol the 13-million-hectare maritime territory

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has joined the Philippine Navy in conducting maritime patrols in Benham Rise, the underwater plateau feared to have been surveyed by China in 2016. 

Coast Guard spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said they had flown Islander planes over the waters of Benham Rise, the PCG’s initial deployment to the 13-million-hectare territory that is rich in minerals and gas. 

“The deployment was only for maritime domain awareness. We just looked into the condition of Benham Rise,” he said.

Balilo also said PCG planes spotted nothing unusual during their patrol. He did not disclose when coast guard ships will also be sent to the area.

This came as President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military on Thursday to also “occupy all the so many islands” in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

Lagyan ng structures (Build structures) and the Philippine flag,” he said during a press briefing in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, the province on the frontlines of the sea row with China.

Defending territory

The Philippine Navy also started patrolling Benham Rise in March after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana raised concerns about the presence of a Chinese survey ship in Benham Rise last year. 

Duterte was criticized for shrugging off China’s presence in Benham Rise. He claimed he was informed beforehand and allowed Chinese activities there – a stark contrast to the reaction of both his defense and foreign affairs secretaries. (READ: Duterte briefed about Benham Rise after mix-up)

China was initially combative, saying the Philippines cannot claim Benham Rise to be its own. But it later softened to clarify that it is respecting the Philippines’ sovereign rights over Benham Rise. 

The uproar over Benham Rise was followed by concerns about reported plans by China to build on Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) because of pronouncements made by the mayor of Sansha City. 

Duterte was criticized again for his defeatist attitude when he said the country “cannot stop China” because the Philippine military has no chance against the Asian giant.

Calls were made for Duterte to defend the shoal as Filipino maritime experts presented evidence that it is part of Philippine territory. (READ: 5 ways Duterte can defend Scarborough without going to war

China later clarified that the report on its supposed plans to build there is untrue. Duterte also said China gave its word to him that it won’t construct anything there. 

Duterte also now wants to rename Benham Rise to Philippine Rise. – Carmela Fonbuena /

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