Lorenzana doubts China’s claim of ‘innocent passage’ in Benham Rise
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana cast doubts on China’s claim that the presence of its ships in Benham Rise was only due to “innocent passage.”
“As far as we are concerned they have business going there, kasi kung innocent passage yan, e alam mo naman yung innocent passage, isang parang Point A to Point B dire-diretso lang yan at constant yung steaming speed. Yung nakita natin yung kanilang survey ship e napakabagal tapos tumitigil sa isang lugar, magtagal ng ilang araw, lipat na naman,” he told reporters in Baguio City on Sunday after the commencement exercises at the Philippine Military Academy.
The defense chief revealed last week that Chinese survey ships were spotted plying Benham Rise for as long as three months last year. The undersea region and biodiversity hotspot located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean is not part of China’s nine-dash line claim.
In 2012, the United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim over Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf.
Lorenzana said that they will deploy more patrol ships to the area.
READ: IN THE KNOW: Benham Rise
“We will do something there. Siguro we will increase our patrols at the same time siguro we will also put structures that says this is ours,” he said.
While he admitted that they were “worried” of China’s actions, they will “trust but verify” the latter’s explanations.
“Wala naman daw silang masamang tangkain doon. We will leave it at that. We will trust what they say but at the same time we will keep on patrolling our area,” he said. RAM
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