Senator calls out loitering China vessels in Philippines Rise

Mark Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Senator calls out loitering China vessels in Philippines Rise
Chinese coast guard ships (L and R) corral a Philippine civilian boat chartered by the Philippine navy to deliver supplies to Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre in the disputed South China Sea, on August 22, 2023.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese vessels were caught “loitering” and doing research in Benham Rise, also called Philippine Rise, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone, Sen. Francis Tolentino said yesterday.

In an interview over radio station dwIZ, Tolentino said the Chinese research vessels have no business being in Benham Rise in the country’s eastern waters.

“They are loitering there because they are interested in the area, but they need our permission before they can do the research,” he added.

The senator warned the Chinese vessels that their incursions would be illegal under the proposed Maritime Zones Bill, a recently passed Senate measure seeking to delineate the country’s internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, EEZ and continental shelf.

“Maybe they are not yet aware of the bill, but even if they loiter there, it is clear that that is our area. With the measure, more countries will recognize our maritime rights in the area, even if the one country loitering there does not,” he said, referring to China.

Tolentino expressed hope that the Congress bicameral conference committee would be able to reconcile varying versions of the Maritime Zones Bill, so that this can be signed into law by the President as soon as possible.

Maritime zones are drawn with the baselines as the starting point. The country’s archipelagic baselines are defined in Republic Act 9522, which was passed in 2009.

The Maritime Zones Bill seeks to bolster the country’s territorial integrity amid China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commodore Jay Tarriela continued to refute claims by China on its illegal claim over the WPS.

“The People’s Republic of China is distorting the concept by packaging its illegal territorial claims as jurisdiction,’ avoiding the legal and political facts of its illegal presence within the Philippines’ EEZ, and seeking to solidify its illegal gains in the West Philippine Sea,” he wrote.

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