Duterte formed the team of 50 Filipino experts to further assess the country’s sovereignty over the seismically active undersea and volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea.
Geremy Pintolo
‘Philippines to build in Benham Rise to assert claim’
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 9, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has formed a team of experts to conduct a study at the Philippine Rise.

Duterte formed the team of 50 Filipino experts to further assess the country’s sovereignty over the seismically active undersea and volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea.

The President will be commemorating the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise by visiting the maritime area next week, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

“It will also be to launch the start of scientific research to be conducted by around 50 scientists. So the event will be attended by the 50 scientists whom the President will be sending off, as they start their scientific researches in Philippine Rise,” Roque added.

This came after the government suspended the granting of permits for foreign expeditions to the area, after China concluded its own with approval of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The President’s visit comes on the heels of his own rhetoric that the Philippine Rise is entirely within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The United Nations had awarded Benham Rise to the Philippines in 2012 as an extension of its continental shelf, granting it “sovereign rights.”

This means the Philippines has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit resources there.

Manila filed the claim before the UN Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf on April 8, 2009. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) approved the claim in 2012.

In a speech last week, Duterte asserted anew the Philippines’ rights over the area.

He is making the country’s presence felt by marking the first anniversary of his signing of Executive Order No. 25 naming Benham as Philippine Rise.

“The reason why (I am going there) Philippine Rise is (because it is the anniversary). I have to honor that significant day for our country… Benham Rise… It’s really our territory,” Duterte stressed.

Duterte disputed China’s claim that it has “sovereignty (over features), not sovereign rights.” “I am claiming it on the right side that we have full sovereignty,” he said. 

“That’s what they are saying now. So, why would we slow down? That’s the philosophy behind it.”

Duterte said the Philippines cannot allow any other country to claim it – a move contrary to his friendlier approach to China regarding disputed areas in the South China Sea.

Unlike some portions of the South China Sea, Duterte said the Philippines can claim the feature as part of its continental shelf.

“We did not start it. It’s China who said (it is within the) 200 miles (radius), China said ‘it’s part of our sovereignty’ … in terms of territorial and economic zone, ‘it’s ours’,” the President said.  

“We will claim it. We will start to build something there. You know you cannot use a principle just to favor somebody who is strong… (It’s) significant to celebrate the anniversary,” he said.

Related video:

BENHAM RISE PHILIPPINE RISE PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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