PH needs to intensify presence in Benham rise: DFA

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2017 05:08 PM

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the country needs to intensify its "presence" in maritime territories it is claiming like Benham Rise.

DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the country particularly needs to conduct more patrols in these maritime territories. 

Jose's comments come in the wake of China's admission that one of its survey ships was seen in Benham Rise, a vast undersea landmass in the Philippine Sea which was recognized as Philippine territory by the United Nations in 2012. 

The Philippines has expressed concern over the presence of the Chinese survey ship.

Jose said the rights given by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) to other countries which pass by Benham Rise are "freedom of navigation and right of innocent passage."

"Pero hindi absolute yung mga ganyang rights, may mga conditions yan and ultimately, lahat ng rights should be exercised with due regard sa sovereign rights and jurisdiction sa bansang nag-e-exercise ng jurisdiction sa maritime territories," Jose said.

Jose said that under UNCLOS, a ship exercising freedom of navigation through another country's territory should be sailing straight on constant speed, instead of staying in a country's territorial waters for a long time. 

While China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including territories there that are also claimed by the Philippines, it does not claim Benham Rise, which is believed to hold vast gas deposits.

President Duterte has downplayed the country's maritime disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea as he seeks closer ties with China.