AFP still waiting for instructions to patrol Benham Rise
While they say they are ready to do their job, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said they are still waiting for instructions to patrol Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean.
“Up to now, wala pa tayong instructions na narereceive mula sa ating (we haven’t received instructions from our) Department of National Defense and the Office of the President for us to conduct patrols,” AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said early this month that they plan to step up their patrols over the 12-million hectare undersea region rich in biodiversity and minerals, after he disclosed that Chinese survey ships were spotted there last year.
Once they are ordered to start patrolling, Arevalo said research vessel BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) is likely to be deployed.
This vessel, one of the two ships pledged by President Barack Obama when he visited the Philippines in 2015, is the only asset of the Philippine Navy capable of conducting oceanographic and hydrographic survey. The other ship was US Coast Guard Cutter now renamed BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17).
“Your Armed Forces of the Philippines is ready to undertake its mandate to defend our constitution, to defend our territories and our sovereignty but we would of course defer to this decision of our political leadership,” Arevalo said.
The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The undersea region located east of Luzon is not part of China’s nine-dash-line claim. JE
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