Chinese govt denies exploring Benham

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BEIJING has denied intruding into Philippine territory, saying Chinese survey vessels did not explore the Benham Rise region off Aurora Province last year, but cast doubt on Manila’s hold on the undersea area.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Chinese vessels merely passed through international waters.

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“According to the competent authorities, Chinese vessels for marine research did sail across relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon, the Philippines last year, exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations. The remarks by some individuals from the Philippines are not consistent with the facts,” the official was quoted as saying in an official transcript on the Chinese foreign ministry website.

Sought for comment, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was still waiting for the formal response of the Chinese government.

“We will wait for the response of the Chinese side to our note verbale through official channels,” said Assistant Secretary Charles Jose.

Jose on Friday said the Philippines “expressed concern about the reported presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as Philippine waters.”

The Chinese foreign ministry acknowledged that in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf “approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region.”

“But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory,” Geng emphasized.

Geng also said that according to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), “a coastal state’s rights over the continental shelf do not affect the legal status of the superjacent waters or of the air space above those waters, nor do they affect foreign ships’ navigation freedom in the coastal state’s EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and on the high seas, or their innocent passage through the coastal state’s territorial sea as supported by international law.”

Geng added that in response to Manila’s concerns over the activities of Chinese marine research vessels, “foreign ministries of the two countries have had a friendly exchange of views last January to sort out the facts and properly address the issue.”

He urged Manila to “stop playing up the false information and do more to promote mutual trust.”

“Working together, China and the Philippines have properly resolved their differences, added momentum to the development of the bilateral relationship, and driven forward practical cooperation across the board. It serves the common interests of the two countries and peoples, and meets the aspiration shared by peace-loving countries of the region and beyond.”

‘Groundless speculation’ on reclamation

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed that the government monitored in 2016 a Chinese ship surveying the 13-million hectare undersea region and biodiversity hotspot.

Lorenzana also claimed that the United States stopped Chinese reclamation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) last year.

Asked to comment on the Philippine official’s claim, Geng said: “The Chinese side has made its position clear on many occasions…It is China’s sovereignty to decide what to do or not to do on Huangyan Dao. Without a doubt, China will properly handle the relevant issue.”

Geng was referring to Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground that a July 2016 international arbitration ruling said was part of the Philippines’ EEZ.

China blocked access to the shoal in 2012 amid tensions with the previous Aquino administration, which brought the matter to the arbitration tribunal at The Hague.

Filipino fishermen were allowed back to the resource-rich area after President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China in September.

Geng said “China-Philippines relations are developing in a sound momentum, with rapid progress in cooperation across the board.”

“Acting on the two leaders’ consensus of enhancing good-neighborliness, properly addressing differences, and pursuing common growth, the two countries are strengthening political mutual trust and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation. It is hoped that individuals in the Philippines will stop groundless speculation and make more efforts to promote mutual trust and bilateral relations,” he added.

Since assuming the presidency last year, Duterte has sought closer ties with Beijing, choosing to downplay the July 2016 international ruling favoring the Philippines in the maritime dispute in exchange for reinvigorated economic ties.

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8 Comments

  1. vagoneto rieles on

    The ‘detente’ between Duterte and China’s Xi Jee Ping was meant to establish close and equally beneficial relations between two neighbors. Conceding the Chinese build-up in the Scarborough Shoals, without China owning them outright was a pawn offered by Duterte to establish such a relationship. The outcome seems to be, slowly but clearly, showing that this ‘detente’ has gone ‘off its tracks’; and, that Duterte is way over his head in the negotiations. He has chosen to ride the tiger and is now falling off. He has to get back on; otherwise he, (ie we), will be eaten up. Quite obviously China is flexing its very impressive muscles and, is saying..”What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is what I say you can have”.
    Our hold on the ‘Benham Rise’ is starting to slip..and, we may have to accept the fact that China’s hegemony will not end there. Do we have a friend we can count on now? We have bashed, humiliated and driven the Americans out; and where Russia, (Duterte’s other new friend), is concerned, they might as well be ‘tits on a boar hog’.
    We are, most certainly, in blue waters now, with neither sail, paddle nor rudder. We have reason to be worried.

  2. What can you expect with communist China? Dumaan lang? Dumaan papuntang saan? Balak na namang mang agaw…

  3. matinong pinoy on

    Chinese have proven, time and again, that Philippine military is weak, Filipino politicians are corrupt, majority of the Filipinos can be bought like Sen. Trillanes and the rest are dumb. They already completed building seven(7) island in Panatag Scarborough shoal, and it is no longer shoal but islands. What this means is the Chinese just extended their territory in South Pacific and the International Waters is already part of their territory. What this means is that they have the discretion to reject anyone who enters, sail, or fly by the International Waters, This is the reason why the United States have declared long time ago that they will not recognize the Chinese expansion in South Pacific and the International Waterway must remain open, and every now and then, the U.S. send their U.S Carrier destroyer Group to patrol South Pacific and during this time, the Chinese Navy and Coast Guards go into hibernation until U.S. navy patrol is no longer in sight, and then call the media complaining on how their sovereignty has been violated by the Americans.

    The Chinese vessel found in Northern Luzon was on a reconnaissance mission and have plotted everything that can be taken over, at the proper time. Presently, Palawan cannot be taken over easily because there is a military base there that can be used by U.S. Forces under EDCA. However, Northern Luzon is only a prospect because there are no protection or security forces in the eastern part of Northern Luzon and they can create few more islands in between or close to Palau and the Philippines. Uncle Digong should start getting friendly with the U.S. again and see if they can give us about five (5) more of their used Coast Guard Ships to help secure the country’s perimeter, and then you instruct the AFP to recruit another 10,000 Navy personnel. Remind the U.S. to start giving their economic and military assistance again to help cover the salary of the additional recruits and expenditures in buying high techs weapons and military equipment. The foreign and military assistance are appropriated by Congress, compliments of U.S. taxpayers. Lastly, people like me should be hired as consultants.

  4. If its is a part of the Philippine territory even if it is underwater then the Chinese answer that they were in international water is full of crap. Maybe because they have an eye problem! CHINK, INTSIK!

  5. I think China should claim the Benham Rise in dispute of the Philippine claim, to change the territory’s status from “undisputed” to “disputed” while Phil. Pres. Duterte is in power. The current president appears to have a soft spot for China and appears to be willing to compromise Philippine sovereignty to that country in exchange for fleeting economic benefits for his people.

  6. It’s time for us Pinoys to strengthen our country, resources and everything to be able to prosper and be able to defend our territories. We should build the walls of nationalism around the shores of these 7100 islands that no intruder can lay claim to us of our resources because we are a weak nation.

  7. China is as quick to defend its activities by invoking UNCLOS as it is fast and firm in justifying what it’s been doing in areas in WSP well within Phil EEZ. Like, it cannot commit mistake, but a small country like ours can. Double standard?

  8. The ship can possibly belonging to a drug syndicate disguising themselves as marine research whose hub is the Philippines.