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No threat to PH over Benham Rise for now

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said yesterday that there is no threat from other nations on the sovereignty of the Philippines over Benham Rise.

In a Senate panel hearing on the creation of the proposed Benham Rise Development Authority, Esperon said he does not see current threats but he did not rule out possible threats in the future.

“There could be (potential threats) but we don’t see any right now. Pronouncements of the Foreign Affairs of China are saying that they recognize our sovereign rights over Benham Rise,” Esperon told Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

The Department of National Defense had said that a Chinese survey ship was seen on the waters of Benham Rise for around three months last year.

The Chinese Embassy denied that it intentionally sailed to Benham Rise and simply passed by international sea, noting that they had the right of freedom of navigation.

Esperon said that at present, the government could not determine if the Chinese research ship conducted researches on the seabed. The Department of Foreign Affairs has sent a note verbale to China after it learned of the researches.

Esperon explained that China had the right to pass through Philippine waters but only in the name of freedom of navigation and innocent passage which he defined as “passing from your point of origin to your point of destination by the safest means or route.”

Although supportive of the proposal to create a BRDA, he said that first and foremost, the government should know “what we really have in the area.”

“The first priority should be organizing maritime, scientific researches in the area. Since we do not know yet what is in the area. Let us strengthen our research capabilities,” Esperon said.

He suggested the creation of a Department of Maritime Resources and Ocean Affairs to have a single body to tackle these issues. (PNA)