MANILA, Philippines – The Palace on Thursday denied reports that several Chinese and Taiwanese fishermen were spotted in Benham Rise, an undersea landmass in the Pacific Ocean recently declared as part of the Philippine territory.
"There are no Chinese poachers in Benham Rise. Also there are no reports of Taiwanese fishing activities there," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
"We are the only country that was allowed to fish blue fin tuna. There’s a regional pacific management body in charge of fishing in the Pacific waters," he added.
Lacieda added that the government has no plans to put up permanent structures to prevent foreign fishermen from exploring the area.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) had declared Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau, as part of the country’s territory.
Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare undersea region that has untapped potentially rich mineral and gas deposits, is located off the coast of Aurora province, opposite the disputed waters of South China Sea.
It is also part of the Philippine continental shelf and its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).