By Patricia Lourdes Viray
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines cannot claim Benham Rise as its own territory despite it being part of the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, Beijing said.
In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the submission of the Philippines in 2009 with respect to the limits of its continental shelf in the Benham Rise region. This enables the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in the area.
"But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a recent statement.
The Department of National Defense earlier confirmed that Chinese survey ships have conducted oceanographic research in the region.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had sent a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Manila to seek clarification on the reported incursion into the country's territorial waters.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, however, said that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states that "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 and on the high seas, or their innocent passage through the coastal state's territorial sea as supported by international law."
Meanwhile, international law professor Professor Julian Ku of Hofstra University said that the Chinese Foreign Ministry's response to the issue is confusing and troubling.
Read the full story at PhilStar