Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte insists that Benham Rise sea territory is owned by the country and orders military to assert ownership of the newly discovered area to Beijing – but in a friendly way.
In a press briefing, Duterte said he instructed the military to assert Philippine ownership of a large ocean region off the country’s northeastern coast where China’s survey ships were spotted last year.
However, the Filipino chief executive said on Monday he ordered the military to claim the Benham Rise area in a friendly way, repeating that his country has no option but to be diplomatic because it “cannot match the might of China”.
“My order to my military, you go there and tell them straight that this is ours, but I say it in friendship,” Duterte said in a news conference when asked about the issue in the new sea uprising dispute in the eastern part of the country.
It can be remembered that the Philippine navy spotted the Chinese survey ships suspiciously crisscrossing the Benham Rise waters from July to December last year, defence czar Delfin Lorenzana announced last week.
Due to the illegal trespassing of Beijing, Lorenzana said Manila is considering an increase in patrols and the building of territorial markers in the offshore region, which is believed to be rich in mineral resources and a vast coral reef ecosystem.
Benham rise is located at the Eastern coast of the country, it is larger than Luzon, big piece island in the Philippines. According to some experts it homes diffent endemic and endangered species that can only found in the said region.
The ownership of Benham Rise was brought by the Philippines before United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2009, the latter gives decision in favoring the exclusive exploration rights to the country in 2012.
Furthermore, UN also rectified through its decision that Manila has exclusive rights to fish and exploit resources, including undersea deposits of oil and gas.
Meanwhile, Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said it asked China through its embassy on Friday to clarify what the survey ships were doing in Benham Rise.