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PH eyes renaming Benham Rise to ‘Philippine Rise’

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PH eyes renaming Benham Rise to ‘Philippine Rise’
The proposed name will 'emphasize Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the area,' says Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – Amid concerns raised by the months-long activity of a Chinese survey vessel in the resource-rich area, the Philippine government is looking into renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise,” Malacañang said on Saturday, April 1.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Executive Secretary were directed to study the possibility.

“The DFA and Office of the Executive Secretary have been tasked to look into the possibility of changing the name of ‘Benham Rise’ to ‘Philippine Rise’ to emphasize Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the area,” Abella said. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you should know about Benham Rise)

He said that a “motion has been made subject to the conduct of the requisite legal and logistical study to effect the change.”

The motion was made at the joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference in Malacañang attended by the President on Friday night, March 31.

Malacañang made the announcement a day after President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed concerns that China was interested in Benham Rise. (READ: Duterte says China not claiming Benham Rise)

China had asked the Philippines to be allowed to conduct “research” in the area during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, but was rejected. Acting  Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo earlier said there are “two or 3” more pending requests from China to survey the area.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Contintental Shelf (UNCLCS) confirmed Benham Rise as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the continental shelf comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas 200 nautical miles (NM), or 370 kilometers, from a state’s baselines or “edges.”

There was renewed public interest in the area after it was confirmed that a Chinese survey vessel went around Benham Rise from November 2016 to January 2017, apparently without the knowledge of key government offices such as the DFA and the Department of National Defense.

This triggered concerns that China, which is locked in a dispute with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), might be interested in the undisputed Benham Rise as well.

The President’s earlier pronouncements on the Benham Rise issue, seen as deflecting criticism against China’s perceived interest in the area, is among the grounds cited in an impeachment complaint against the Chief Executive. (READ: Alejano wants Duterte impeached over Benham Rise, West PH Sea row)

In his supplemental impeachment complaint-affidavit filed on Tuesday, March 28, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano accused Duterte of betrayal of public trust, culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution, and other high crimes. (READ: Duterte impeachment complaint ‘a fight for all Filipinos,’ says Alejano

Alejano believed Duterte should be impeached for not seeing the presence of a Chinese survey ship in Benham Rise as an incursion in the country’s waters. (READ: Duterte briefed about Benham Rise after mix-up–

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