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China respects PH over Benham

China said it fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in the Benham Rise located northeast of Luzon and that it will not challenge those rights.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying emphasized that the basic principle of international law dictates that the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf do not equate with territories.

Likewise, a littoral state’s exercise of rights over the continental shelf should not hamper such rights as freedom of navigation enjoyed by other countries under international law, Hua said.

China issued the statement after the Philippines sought clarification, through a Note Verbale sent to the Chinese Embassy in Manila, on the reported presence and the visit of a Chinese survey ship in Benham Rise, a seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 kilometers east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

But as the Department of Foreign Affairs asked China for an explanation to the reports on presence of Chinese survey ships in waters recognized by the United Nations as Philippine territory, President Duterte was issuing statements seemingly in defense of China.

According to Duterte, there is “no incursion” by China in Benham Rise and that someone is just making an issue out of it.

The President said the Philippines and China already reached common understanding on the issue and the Philippine side had been notified by the Chinese side. As things are going great, the Philippines and China should not fight about ownership and sovereignty, he said.

China commended Duterte for issuing such remarks. “As he said, China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts, and appropriately handled the issue,” said Hua in a press briefing in Beijing a transcript of which was posted in the official website of the Chinese Embassy in Manila.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry official pointed out that currently, under the concerted efforts of China and the Philippines, the “bilateral relationship is developing with a sound momentum and practical cooperation in various areas is picking up speed. This is in line with the common interests and aspiration of the two peoples.”

“From China’s point of view, we attach great importance to the good neighborly and friendly partnership with the Philippines, and stand ready to work with the Philippines to implement the two Presidents’ consensus of upholding good neighborly and friendly cooperation, appropriately handling differences, and pursuing common development, bear in mind the larger picture of bilateral relations, continue to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, deepen friendly cooperation, and strive for the continued, sound and steady development of bilateral relations,” she stressed. (Roy C. Mabasa)