Unidentified aircraft flies over Benham Rise

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2017 02:08 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2017 10:16 PM

BENHAM RISE - Sailors aboard the BRP Ramon Alcaraz spotted an unidentified aircraft flying some 500 feet above as the Philippine Navy frigate patrolled Benham Rise.

The aircraft was spotted at around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The sailors observing from the ship believe the aircraft was a drone, or an unmanned aerial vehicle, because of the peculiar way it moved.

The aircraft hovered, and flew sharply back and forth, staying in a spot in front of the Navy ship for several minutes, not moving in a single direction.

However, Commander Jeff Rene Nadugo, commanding officer of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, said their ship was not capable of identifying the kind of aircraft, the nature of its flight, or who was flying it. 

They merely recorded the incident in their ship's log as "unidentified bogey sighted," and reported it to the headquarters.

Alcaraz, the he country's naval warship, was deployed to Benham Rise after Chinese ships were recently spotted in the area.

The deployment came after China and the Philippines exchanged comments about the resource-rich undersea region which the United Nations declared to be part of the Philippines' continental shelf.

China on Thursday claimed it "will not" have a dispute with the Philippines over Benham Rise while admitting that its ships passed through the waters.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he believed China had conducted survey missions deep into the Southeast Asian nation's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the Benham Rise, which sits off the Philippines' east coast.

- With reports from Reuters