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China Says Philippines Can’t Claim Benham Rise as Its Own Territory Despite UN Ruling





It wasn’t too long ago when the Philippines scored a legal victory when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) — an international tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands — backed its claim in the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

As everyone knows, China had contested the Philippines’ territorial claim. China has always insisted that it has a historical “9-dash line” claim on the largest portion of the South China Sea.

It may be recalled, though, that the PCA ruled that China did not have the right to claim the disputed territories. It was also pointed out that China “had committed violations by building structures in the area.”

China also seems to be interested in the resource-rich “Benham Rise”.

Then again, it seems as if China remains indifferent to the UNCLOS ruling. Now, it has once again stirred up territorial tension.

The Philippines has started exploring the area.

“The Philippine government has expressed concern over the reported presence of a Chinese ship at Benham Rise, which is part of the country’s exclusive economic zone,” reports Patricia Lourdes Viray in The Philippine Star.

It's a David vs. Goliath scene when China's ships are in Philippine waters.

A site dedicated solely to the Benham Rise describes it as “an under sea region east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela.” Luzon is one of the three main islands of the Philippines.

The area — which is also called the Benham Plateau — is rich in marine life, as well as oil, natural gas, and petroleum. In other words, it is a natural resource in every sense.

If it's that close to the Philippines, how can anyone else claim it?

The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) has already ruled that the Benham Rise is solely claimed by the Philippines. They have officially declared the area as part of the country’s “continental shelf,” which is defined as “the area of seabed around a large landmass where the sea is relatively shallow compared with the open ocean.”

China says the 9-dash-line isn't fixed and could extend to other areas.

Indeed, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines is assigned exclusive economic zone that extends 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from its continental shelf. Meanwhile, its extended continental shelf extends for another 278 km (150 nautical miles). Thus, the Philippines is recognized as the rightful territorial claimant of 43 million hectares in vicinity of the Benham Rise.

Thus, the Philippines government expressed its concern over the sighting of a Chinese ship at Benham Rise. China was asked to shed some light on this.

Why is China interested in the Benham Rise?

In a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang, confirmed,

“Chinese vessels for marine research did sail across relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon, the Philippines last year, exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations.”

Benham Rise's underwater attractions alone is priceless.

He went on to assert,

“The UNCLCS approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region. But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory.”

The Benham Rise boasts of abundant corals.

For its part, the Philippine government still demands an official explanation from China about the presence of its ships at Benham Rise.

Filipinos want China to stay out of the country's territory.

That said, the Philippines’ Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana has already ordered the Navy to drive away the Chinese ship from Benham Rise if seen again. According to The Philippine Star, Lorenzana said that the Chinese vessels were “looking for a place to put submarines” in the area.


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