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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Speaker, lawmakers raise alarm over incursions in Philippine Rise

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Speaker Martin Romualdez expressed alarm over the presence of Chinese vessels “loitering” and conducting research activities within the Philippine Rise, which is well within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EZZ).

“The Philippines will not compromise its territorial integrity or allow any encroachment upon its sovereign rights. Philippine Rise is unquestionably within our EZZ, and we will assert our authority to safeguard our maritime domain,” Romualdez said on Monday.

“The Philippines will not back down or yield an inch of its territory.

We will continue to assert our rights over the Philippine Rise and any other maritime areas that belong to us under international law,” he added from Melbourne, where he joined President Marcos and the Philippine delegation in the 50th ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

The Speaker said any unauthorized presence or activities by foreign vessels in the area undermine the country’s sovereign rights.

“The Philippine Rise is a vital marine resource rich in biodiversity and potential for scientific research, as well as economic opportunities for our country. We must protect and harness its full potential for the benefit of the Filipino people,” he said.

The Philippine Coast Guard yesterday deployed offshore patrol vessel BRP Gabriela Silang for a two-week mission to Batanes and the Philippine Rise on the heels of the reported presence of Chinese vessels.

BRP Gabriela Silang will patrol the vicinity waters to conduct maritime domain awareness, intensify the Coast Guard’s presence in Northern Luzon, and monitor local fishermen, PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, for his part, urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a diplomatic protest with China for trespassing.

“The government should lodge a protest with Beijing every time they trespass on our territory, whether in Benham Rise or the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the presence of the two Chinese research vessels raises serious maritime security and sovereignty concerns.

Romualdez likewise emphasized the need for countries to adhere to international laws and protocols.

“We call on all nations to respect the rights of coastal states, uphold the principles of international law, and refrain from any activities that undermine regional stability and maritime security,” he said.

“The Philippine government remains steadfast in its duty to protect our sovereignty and preserve our national interest. We will work closely with relevant agencies to address this issue effectively and assert our rights within the bounds of international law,” he added.

Aside from the PCG vessel, Balilo said air assets of the Coast Guard Aviation Force are on standby for possible augmentation, specifically in performing aerial surveillance.

US maritime security analyst Ray Powell last week said in a post on X that at least two Chinese vessels were seen loitering around the Philippine Rise on the north eastern side of Luzon.

Philippine Rise is an underwater plateau within the 200-nautical mile EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines. In May 2017, the Philippine government declared it as a “protected food supply exclusive zone.”

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