MANILA— China fully recognized Philippine sovereignty over Benham Rise, Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Wednesday.
In a chance interview, Manalo said Beijing notified Manila that they are not claiming ownership of Benham Rise but claimed that they have the right of innocent passage.
The United Nations Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf recognized Benham Rise in 2012 as an extension of Philippine continental shelf, where Filipinos have exclusive rights to fish and exploit potential resources like undersea gas and oil.
Benham Rise is a sprawling and potentially resource-rich undersea landmass which no other country is claiming.
He said while DFA is still waiting for an official response from Beijing regarding sightings of research ships in Benham Rise, China sent a word recognizing Philippine sovereign rights over the area.
“That is what we need to clarify with Beijing but China has already informed us that they do recognize our sovereignty rights and they are not disputing Benham Rise,” Manalo pointed out. “The Benham Rise is within our extended continental shelf, which means we do have the sovereign rights to exploit its resources.”
The chief envoy stressed that China “never sought permission” for Chinese research vessels to stay in Philippine waters.
Manalo said that the Philippines has already sought clarification on why Chinese vessels were spotted slowly maneuvering within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), east part of Luzon.
“For us, as long as we are recognized, we have a sovereign right, that’s already a very important admission,” he noted.
According to Manalo, if China’s purpose is to make a research on Benham Rise, the first thing to do is to seek permission to the host country.
He added that it only becomes suspicious when their research vessel accompanied by their coast guard and navy ships were spotted in a distance moving in a slow pace.