Duterte says China not claiming Benham Rise

Pia Ranada

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Duterte says China not claiming Benham Rise


'They explained that, 'we will not claim Benham Rise,'' says President Duterte after a command conference in which the continental shelf was discussed

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte says China has given him their assurance that they will not claim Benham Rise as part of their territory.

“I received word doon sa (regarding) Benham Rise, pinag-usapan namin sa command conference kahapon (we talked about it during the command conference yesterday). They explained na (that), ‘we will not claim Benham Rise,’” said Duterte on Friday, March 31, during a women’s gathering on Palace grounds.

He did not elaborate. He had just come from a joint command conference with the military and police.

Duterte seemed to have a better understanding of Benham Rise after he was briefed by security officials about the issue. He identified it as a continental shelf “on the right side of the Philippines.”

In a March 14 press conference, he appeared to mix up Benham Rise with the West Philippine Sea.

Though Duterte said China is not claiming Benham Rise, China has expressed interest in conducting surveys there.

According to Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, China has “two or 3” pending requests to survey Benham Rise, after previous requests had been denied.

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise was confirmed by the United Nations as belonging to the Philippines. The Philippines was granted the exclusive sovereign rights to explore the area. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you should know about Benham Rise)

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana raised alarm when he reported a Chinese survey ship was seen plying its waters last year over a period of 3 months.

Responding to Lorenzana’s concerns, China said the Philippines cannot claim Benham Rise to be its own territory.

China said it was “exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations.”

But a survey ship staying for about 3 months in the area last year belied claims of innocent passage, Lorenzana pointed out.

The Philippine Navy has deployed a ship to regularly patrol Benham Rise. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.