President Rodrigo Duterte wants to rename Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” in a bid to assert the country’s ownership of the mineral-rich underwater landmass 250 kilometers east of Luzon.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Executive Secretary to look into the possibility of changing the name of Benham Rise “to emphasize Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the area.”
“A motion has been made subject to the conduct of the requisite legal and logistical study to effect the change,” Abella said.
Following a joint command conference with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday, Duterte said China has assured him that they will not claim Benham Rise as part of their territory.
“I received word regarding Benham Rise. China explained that they will not claim it,” the President said.
In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf granted the Philippines’ claim and declared the 13-hectare undersea region as an extension of the country’s continental shelf.
While China claims almost the entire South China Sea, it has expressed intentions to conduct surveys at the undersea landmass, which is located within Philippine waters in bodies facing the Pacific Ocean.
Last week, the AFP included Benham Rise in the patrol route of Philippine Navy warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz.
The military also announced earlier this week that a newly-acquired Beechcraft TC90 training aircraft will be sent to patrol Benham Rise as well as the West Philippine Sea.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier recommended the procurement and use of satellites to better monitor marine activity in Benham Rise.
“When you have an exclusive economic zone that is as big as what we have, then we would require awareness of everything that’s going on there,” Esperon said during a Senate panel hearing on the proposed creation of a Benham Rise Development Authority last week.
“We have our Nomad [planes] which are giving us some good pictures but we don’t even have satellites. We are one big country with a big EEZ that doesn’t have image satellites, much less communication satellites,” he added.
Esperon said the government should build up those capabilities to have a better view and management of Philippine resources.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.