GUARDING BENHAM: Photo from the Philippine Navy shows the BRP Ramon Alcaraz during a recent deployment. The frigate has been sent to patrol Benham Rise following Chinese activities near the underwater plateau.
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Navy has deployed one of its three warships to Benham Rise.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz has started patrolling the 13-million-hectare undersea region and biodiversity hotspot east of Luzon, officials said yesterday.
“The Navy will henceforth regularly patrol Benham Rise partly due to past Chinese activities there but more importantly because it is part of our continental shelf,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.
Lorenzana said the Navy would deploy the BRP Gregorio Velasquez to conduct a survey of Benham Rise.
“Our next activity is to have the area surveyed to clearly determine its limits, depths, coral formations, etc.,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana earlier revealed a Chinese survey ship was spotted off Benham Rise for three months last year.
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He described the presence of Chinese survey ships as “very concerning” and ordered the Navy to drive away the foreign ships.
In 2009, the Philippines lodged a full territorial claim to Benham Rise with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The claim was granted in 2012, with Benham Rise as an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf, located some 350 nautical miles off Aurora province in the country’s eastern seaboard.
China said on Thursday it fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in Benham Rise.
China, however, stressed that it still has the right and freedom of navigation in those areas.