BEIJING–The Chinese Foreign Ministry has assured that China will not and will never dispute the Philippines’ rights over the Benham Rise continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from nation’s shore.
”Since someone from the Philippines are still playing it up, I’d like to say a few more words about it,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded when asked to comment about persistent Philippine media reports about Chinese vessels’ passage for marine scientific research across waters near Benham Rise.
Hua said the Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly expressed China’s position since the issue came out in the Philippine media more than 10 days ago.
She said China recognized that the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect to the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
”The Chinese side fully respects the Philippines’ rights and interests over the Benham Rise region. There has never been and will not be any dispute over this region between China and the Philippines,” Hua told the media last Thursday.
Hua clarified that while the Chinese vessels for maritime scientific research did sail across the relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon of the Philippines “they did not conduct any operations or other activities.”
She said the international laws including the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) do not prohibit foreign ships’ navigation within the coastal state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and on the high seas.
”Chinese vessels enjoy navigation freedom and the right to innocent passage,” Hua said.
The Philippines and China relations has made big turnaround following a fruitful visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Beijing in October last year.
”Since last year, thanks to the concerted efforts of China and the Philippines, the Sino-Philippine relations have witnessed all-round improvement, which serves the common interests and meets the needs of the two countries and two peoples,” Hua said.
She said China will continue to give great importance to the China-Philippine relations and cherishes the sound developing momentum of the bilateral relations.
”Going forward, China will remain committed to properly addressing relevant maritime issues together with the Philippines,” Hua said.
In an effort to renew the Philippines-China relation, President Duterte has temporarily shelved an international tribunal decision favoring the Philippines’ arbitration case against China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.
The popular Filipino leader’s move has resulted in over USD24 billion investment pledges and funding from China and has improved a lot the bilateral trade between the two countries.
In previous media interview, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Philippines and China had agreed to establish bilateral consultation on the issue of South China Sea.
Hua said China is creating favorable atmosphere for the healthy, stable and fast development of the China-Philippine relations as well as the progress of mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation in various fields.
”As neighbors facing each other across the sea, China and the Philippines have closely engaged in exchanges, and the two peoples have enjoyed friendship over generations,” she said.