Gov't studies renaming Benham Rise to 'Philippine Rise'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2017 05:16 PM

This photo was taken during a marine expedition at Benham Rise last May 26, 2016. Branching corals contribute to the complexity of the reef. Oceana Philippines

MANILA- The government said Saturday it was studying the possibility of renaming Benham Rise to "Philippine Rise," to strengthen the country's rights over the resource-rich undersea plateau.

Manila's move came after Chinese survey ships sailed in the Benham Rise area, putting a spotlight on President Rodrigo Duterte's dealings with Beijing.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Executive Secretary have been tasked to look into the possible renaming of Benham Rise, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

"A motion has been made subject to the conduct of the requisite legal and logistical study to effect the change," Abella said.

The United Nations ruled in 2012 that Benham Rise, off the Philippines' Pacific coast, was within the country's extended continental shelf.

Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino, renamed the South China Sea to West Philippine Sea to assert Manila's claim to resource-rich islands, reefs and outcrops that are also claimed by China.

Unlike in the South China Sea, Beijing has not contested Manila's claim to Benham Rise.

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo told ANC earlier this week that China had pending requests to survey Benham Rise.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last month raised concern over the presence of Chinese ships in the area. Manila's foreign ministry has sought a clarification from Beijing.

China has assured the Philippines that it would "fully respect and recognize the sovereign rights of the Philippines on Benham Rise," Manalo said.