President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, February 28, warned countries of risking a war with the Philippines should they conduct unwarranted fishing and exploration activities in the Philippine Rise, also referred to as Benham Rise.
In a speech before soldiers in Marawi City, Duterte asserted anew the Philippines’ exclusive rights to explore and exploit resources in the resource-rich waters.
“Yung Philippine Rise, atin talaga ‘yan (The Philippine Rise is ours),” the president stressed.
He noted that any foreign entities who wanted to conduct scientific research in the area should first secure permission from the Philippine government, backed by a recommendation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Sinabi ko talaga, ‘walang mage-experiments na diyan hangga’t wala silang permiso galing sa akin (said that nobody would experiment there without my permission) but the Armed Forces will have to recommend it,” the president said.
“Otherwise, no. I will not allow fishing. Magka-giyera tayo (There will be war),” he warned, adding that the Philippine government has already deployed a Marine battalion to guard the waters.
In a separate statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that the government will oppose China’s naming of five undersea features in the Philippine Rise.
“The Philippine government is planning to contest the China-named features in the Philippine Rise,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told reporters in a briefing.
Last February 13, Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal revealed that China successfully named five undersea features in the Philippines Rise last year after getting approval from the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved the names in 2017.
Malacañang, however, declared that it will not recognize the Chinese names.
During a Senate hearing on Monday, February 26, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon reported that China illegally surveyed the Philippine Rise in 2004, which led to the naming of the undersea features.
“We have raised the issue of unauthorized researches conducted by the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences during our bilateral consultation mechanism in Manila last February 13,” Abella added.
According to him, said both countries “agreed that all marine science research henceforth must have the consent of the Philippines.”