PH can’t claim Benham Rise as its own territory—Beijing
The Philippines cannot claim the mineral-rich Benham Rise as its own property despite being recognized by the United Nations, China’s foreign ministry said.
As defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau, lies within the continental shelf of the Philippines. The undersea landmass in the Pacific Ocean is potentially rich in mineral and natural gas deposits.
“First, in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region. But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a press briefing last Friday.
“Second, according to international law including UNCLOS, a coastal state’s rights over the continental shelf do not affect the legal status of the superjacent waters or of the air space above those waters, nor do they affect foreign ships’ navigation freedom in the coastal state’s EEZ and on the high seas, or their innocent passage through the coastal state’s territorial sea as supported by international law,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said a Chinese survey ship was seen sailing around the region for three months last year, adding that he had received reports indicating the Chinese were looking for possible submarine stations.
IN THE KNOW: Benham Rise
But the Chinese official reiterated that the survey ship’s passage through the maritime territory east of Luzon was innocent, dismissing remarks from “some individuals from the Philippines” as “inconsistent with facts.”
“According to the competent authorities, Chinese vessels for marine research did sail across relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon, the Philippines last year, exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations. The remarks by some individuals from the Philippines are not consistent with the facts,” the spokesperson said.
“Working together, China and the Philippines have properly resolved their differences, added momentum to the development of the bilateral relationship, and driven forward practical cooperation across the board… It is hoped that individuals of the Philippines will stop playing up the false information and do more to promote mutual trust,” he added.
Lorenzana said the Philippines would possibly put up a structure in Benham Rise to signify ownership of the area. He added that the country was eyeing to purchase more modern radar systems to prevent unwanted incursions into its territorial waters.
Benham Rise, named after American geologist Andrew Benham who discovered the area in 1933, is 13-million hectare undersea region off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. JE
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