Duterte renames 'Benham Rise' to 'Philippine Rise'

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2017 12:03 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 – President Rodrigo Duterte has officially renamed Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise,” in an apparent bid to assert the country’s sovereignty over the resource-rich waters amid alleged incursions by Chinese ships.

Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 renaming the 13-million hectare area undersea landmass off Aurora.

“All departments, subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities of the government shall henceforth use and employ the name ‘Philippine Rise’ in all official documents in referring to the undersea feature,” the EO reads.

The president made the proposal to rename Benham Rise in early April, following reports that Chinese ships were spotted in the area.

China has said it was merely passing through the area and assured the Philippines that it would "fully respect and recognize the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

The Philippine Rise is the latest addition to Philippine territory. It was awarded to the country in 2012 by the United Nations after Manila successfully proved that it was part of Isabela province's extended continental shelf. The extended continent shelf was named after American geologist, Andrew Benham, who reportedly surveyed it in 1933.

Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, opted to use West Philippine Sea when referring to South China Sea to assert Manila's claim to the resource-rich islands, reefs and outcrops that are also claimed by China and other neighbors.

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

-- With Reuters