China has no right to explore Benham Rise — Carpio

MANILA — Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Wednesday said China cannot conduct oil and gas explorations in Benham Rise which was earlier declared by the United Nations as part of the extended continental shelf (ECS) of the Philippines.

“We have sovereign rights over Benham Rise because we have exclusive right to explore and exploit the oil, gas and other mineral resources in Benham Rise which has been confirmed by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS) as part of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines,” he said in a statement.

“If the Chinese vessels were conducting seismic surveys to look for oil, gas and minerals, then they could not do that because UNLCOS has reserved the oil, gas and minerals in the ECS to the Philippines,” Carpio stressed.

The UNCLOS had confirmed that Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare area off the coast of Aurora province, is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory. The area has untapped natural resources, including rich mineral deposits, and is said to be bigger than the total area of Luzon, Samar and Leyte combined.

Carpio, who was part of the legal team that presented the government’s case against China’s reclamation in the West Philippine Sea before the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2015, suggested that the Philippines may again take action if China is indeed conducting mineral exploration in the area. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/