PH Navy warship patrols Benham Rise
The Philippine Navy deployed one of its warships in Benham Rise amid reports that a Chinese survey ship was monitored plying the territory for as long as three months last year.
A television report from ABS-CBN on Thursday showed BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) conducting sovereignty patrol along the vicinity of Benham Rise, located off the Philippines’ east coast.
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.
READ: Lorenzana: Chinese survey ship spotted in Benham Rise
The deployment of BRP Alcaraz was the first known deployment of a government asset after Lorenzana bared China’s interest to Benham Rise.
Should they have spotted China during the patrol, BRP Alcaraz skipper Commander Jeff Rene Nadugo said they would have challenged China and questioned their presence there.
“Meron tayong protocol kung sakaling nakita ay i-challenge natin kung ano intention, kung ano purpose. Kung intent ay research eh hindi nararapat kelangan pakiusapan umalis (We have a protocol; had we seen them, we would have challenged their intention and asked for their purporse. If their intent was to conduct a search, we would not allow it and ask them to leave),” he told ABS-CBN.
READ: China can’t conduct surveys at Benham Rise – Justice Carpio
The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The undersea region and biodiversity hotspot located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean is not part of China’s nine-dash-line claim.
China claimed the issue on Benham Rise has been “hyped up” and they fully respect the Philippines’ maritime rights there.
China, however, remains involved in a sea dispute with the Philippines over the South China Sea even as the relationship of the two countries has improved after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last year. IDL/rga
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