MANILA—To demonstrate Philippine control and ownership of Benham Rise, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they are looking at a possibility of conducting a survey to determine its exact size and its possible resources.
The maritime feature is located off the Aurora and Isabela coastlines.
“We will make a survey to determine the area’s exact size and then later on we will decide what to do with the area,” he said in Filipino.
President Rodrigo Duterte,in his press briefing on Monday stressed that the country has rights on the Benham Rise and the possible resources that can be found there.
The DND chief said they will also continue sending out patrols in the area and they will also determine what can be installed or deployed to showcase Philippine claims in Benham Rise.
We will study what we can put there, to exploit also the resources as we know that Benham Rise is the spawning ground of yellow fin tuna and very rich (in maritime resources). It is almost as big as Northern and Central Luzon. So we will continue to study what will be the best way to develop that area for our needs,” Lorenzana stressed.
The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be a fuel-rich area and awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012.
Earlier, the People’s Republic of China claimed that its vessels were only exercising its right of innocent passage when the DND announced that several Chinese survey ships were spotted in the locality last year.
Lorenzana disputed this Chinese claim and said ships exercising right to innocent passage steam on a definite course and speed and not constantly changing their courses and speeds.
Previously, Chinese survey ships were also seen off Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank surveying the sea bed for possible mineral deposits, he added.
The Chinese has gained total control of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag) after a stand-off with the Philippine Navy in April 2012.