China may be surveying Benham Rise to study Taiwan ‘entry’—expert

China may be surveying Benham Rise to study Taiwan ‘entry’ — expert

/ 11:43 AM March 04, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — China’s reported presence in Benham Rise could have something to do with an underwater survey to prepare for possible occupation of Taiwan, a maritime security expert said on Monday.

Renato de Castro, a defense analyst and Dela Salle University professor, said this is one of the possible reasons for the presence of two Chinese research vessels in the eastern section of the country relatively near the self-ruled island.

READ: 2 Chinese research vessels ‘loitering’ at Philippine Rise 

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“Pwede pong simple scientific survey lang. Pero ang more concern ko ho talaga, talagang iniimbestigahan nila ‘yung area na ‘yan, hindi lang sa resources ‘yan,” De Castro said over radio dzBB.

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(It can be a simple scientific survey. But my concern is that they are really investigating that area, not just for its resources.)

“Sinu-survey na ho nila ang area ng Taiwan, ‘yung Pacific side ng Taiwan. Kung papasukin nila ang Taiwan, most likely doon mangyayari ang amphibious operation,” he also said.

(They are already surveying the area of Taiwan, the Pacific side of Taiwan. If they enter Taiwan, most likely, the amphibious operation will happen there.)

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China regards as a renegade province subject to reunification, broke away from the mainland in 1949 following the takeover of Mao Zedong’s communist forces.

De Castro noted that China may have been mapping the underwater terrain for their submarines.

“Kasi pwede po diyan mag-operate ang mga submarines eh, kaya tinitignan na nila ‘yan, nagcoconduct na sila ng underwater survey, mina-map na nila ang underwater terrain,” he said.

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(Because submarines can operate there, so they are looking at that. They are conducting an underwater survey; they are already mapping the underwater terrain.)

READ: Benham Rise and our landlocked vision

In response to the Chinese presence, the Philippine Coast Guard deployed one of its biggest vessels, BRP Gabriela Silang, to the northeast corner of the resource-rich submerged landmass within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

READ: PCG deploys one of its biggest vessels to Benham Rise 

The 24-million-hectare undersea feature is part of the Philippine continental shelf and is inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

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According to Article 57 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has sovereign rights over its own EEZ. However, other nations could still enjoy non-economic uses in other states’ EEZ such as freedom of navigation and the right of overflight.

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TAGS: Benham Rise, China, Philippine Rise, Taiwan, West Philippine Sea

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