MANILA- Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Thursday the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will push for effective governance of the country's maritime domain.
Manalo, in a media briefing, listed several concerns that he believes are considered "more urgent interests" of the Philippines such as maritime security, strong foreign policy, welfare of Filipinos abroad, and addressing natural calamities.
"This [maritime domain] affects our nation's security and defense posture, the livelihood of our kababayans especially in the coastal areas, and our capabilities to abide by our commitments in the UN Law of the Sea and other related maritime treaties," Manalo said.
The country's claim to Benham Rise, a 13-million-hectare continental shelf located east of Luzon island believed to be gas-rich, was approved by the United Nations in 2012.
The announcement came following concerns over Benham Rise which recently made headlines after Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang confirmed that Chinese vessels recently passed through the undersea plateau for "marine research," but insisted this was allowed under the principles of "freedom of navigation" and "right to innocent passage."
Manalo assured that Beijing acknowledged and responded with a re-affirmation of the Philippines' sovereign rights over Benham Rise.
"They just re-affirmed that the Philippines has sovereign rights over Benham Rise," he said.
Manalo also assured that the DFA will work to further strengthen the country's independent foreign policy.
"We’re already moving forward from dependence on any single country to adopting a strong foreign policy," he said.