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Carpio: Only Philippines can explore, build in Benham

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that China is allowed to undertake water survey in the water column in the Benham Rise region. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion

MANILA, Philippines — Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), only the Philippines can build structures in Benham Rise, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday.

Carpio noted that only the coastal state has the right to put up any structure in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or continental shelf.

"No other state can put up a structure within our EEZ and within the extended continental shelf," Carpio told reporters on the sidelines of a lunch event with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Makati.

Article 60 of the 1982 UNCLOS states that the coastal state has exclusive right to construct artificial islands, installations and structures for exploration in its EEZ.

"The coastal State shall have exclusive jurisdiction over such artificial islands, installations and structures, including jurisdiction with regard to customs, fiscal, health, safety and immigration laws and regulations," says paragraph 2, Article 60 of the UNCLOS.

In 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines' submission with respect to the limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region.

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Beyond the 200-nautical-mile limit is the extended continental shelf which is up to 150 nautical miles.

"In the EEZ, we have exclusive rights to all the natural resources—the fish and the oil, gas and minerals but in the extended (continental shelf), we only have exclusive right to the oil, gas and minerals, not the fish," Carpio said.

Limits for China

The Chinese are allowed to conduct survey on the water column if they were only doing research on the fishery and the water column, according to Carpio.

"But if it's a research on oil, gas and minerals, they cannot do that," Carpio said.

Carpio added that only the Philippines can explore the region as it has sovereign rights to explore and exploit natural resources.

Asked about the possible consequences of allowing China to survey Benham Rise, Carpio said that he is not aware of the type of agreement that the two countries entered into.

"We still don't know what their agreement was about so it's premature now to discuss the consequences because we don't know what kind of agreement entered into," Carpio said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that he does not consider China's latest activities in the region as an incursion in the country's territorial waters.

READ: Duterte: China allowed to survey Benham Rise

"We were advised way ahead but we have the right to ask ‘how are things going? What is your purpose?" Duterte told reporters on Monday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the government may build structures in Benham Rise to demonstrate Philippine sovereignty and control over the area.

RELATED: ‘Philippines in charge at Benham’

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