PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte skipped the jet ski ride to Benham Rise or Philippine Rise on Tuesday, but presidential son Sebastian Duterte and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go did, the Palace said Tuaesday.
Go said he and Sebastian “represented” the President by doing the jet ski ride.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s trip to Philippine Rise to send off Filipino scientists who will conduct maritime research was both “symbolic” and “assertive.”
He made his remarks as Duterte was set to lead the sendoff to commemorate the 2012 United Nations declaration that the undersea feature was part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf.
Although Duterte did not show up during the trip to the Philippine Rise, Roque said the visit of Sebastian and Go was part of Duterte’s simple ceremonial sendoff for the team to begin the country’s first scientific research in the vast undersea plateau off Aurora province.
Duterte said Philippine Rise was part of Philippine territory and warned he would declare war against any foreign country going there without the Philippine government’s permission.
Philippine Rise is an offshore frontier facing the Pacific Ocean that is about 24 million hectares and is in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Philippine security officials raised concern about intrusions when a Chinese ship was monitored criss-crossing the waters early last year, drawing public attention to the territory that some believe could be harboring gas and oil deposits aside from its rich fishing areas.
Roque said Duterte will send some 50 Filipino researchers who will study the resource-rich area.
China has converted three reefs in the disputed West Philippine Sea into artificial islands into military posts, but Roque said the Philippines did not relinquish any claim to any disputed region.
“We have always been putting down our feet. We have not surrendered our title, we have not relinquished our title, we maintain we have title,” Roque said.
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