DND mulls more patrols off Benham Rise

MANILA — To demonstrate Philippine sovereignty and control over Benham Rise, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is mulling the increase of patrols in the area.

The maritime feature is located off the Aurora and Isabela coastline.

He added the increase of Filipino patrols in the area would demonstrate to everyone that the area is under Filipino jurisdiction.

“Well, we will do something there, may we will increase our patrols at the same time, we might set up a structure to says that (Benham Rise) is ours,” Lorenzana said in Filipino.

Earlier, China claimed that its vessels were only exercising its right of innocent passage when the DND announced that several Chinese survey ships were spotted in the locality last year.

Lorenzana disputed this Chinese claim and said ships exercising right to innocent passage steam on a definite course and speed and do not constantly change their courses and speeds.

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be a fuel-rich area and awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012.

Previously, Chinese survey ships were also seen off Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank surveying the sea bed for possible mineral deposits, he added.

The Chinese has gained total control of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag) after a standoff with the Philippine Navy in April 2012. PNA-northboundasia.com