Chinese survey ships in the Philippine Rise

THAT DOES IT - Anne Sanchez - The Freeman

What are two Chinese survey ships doing in the Philippine Rise? According to Ray Powell, project director at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation who also heads Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at the same university, the two ships have been loitering in the area since they sailed from the port at Longxue Island in Guangzhou on February 26 and sailed through the Luzon Strait. That area is a long way from China. The Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) is located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean. The fishermen of Aurora, Isabela, and Catanduanes benefit from fishing in this area. It is not located within any of China’s territorial claims like that in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). So, why are these two survey ships loitering in the area?

Chinese survey ships began sailing the Philippine Rise when Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016. Duterte allowed China to send survey ships to explore the area, which is said to be rich in minerals and natural gas. It is within the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines. Ships of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) should shadow these two ships just like what the Chinese Coast Guard does during supply runs in Ayungin Shoal. Duterte is no longer in office, but it seems these ships still feel emboldened to survey the area. I guess we have Duterte to thank for that. Defense Secretary Teodoro wants to build a naval outpost in Divilacan, Isabela, to stand watch over the area. According to Security analyst Chester Cabalza, president and founder of the Manila-based think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, the naval and air force outposts in the area should be strengthened to monitor the vast area.

This highlights the lack of equipment and personnel of the PCG. That is a lot of ocean to cover. If we thought there was no need to guard the eastern part of the country, this is the answer. China's exploration of the oceans knows no bounds. We should not allow China to be the first to extract the natural resources within the Philippine Rise. It's time to survey the area with non-Chinese partners. No country can object or interfere if we start extracting minerals and natural gas. And if you ask me, no Chinese corporation should be partnered to do this. Many other countries can do this such as Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia as well as America, and other Western countries. With the way the Chinese Coast Guard treats our supply ships to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, why should they benefit from the riches in the Philippine Rise?

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