MANILA — 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.” Sammy Martin/PNA-northboundasia.com