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Not so fast! China says PH can’t claim Benham Rise as its turf

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The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf’s grant of the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise does not mean that the country can claim the undersea region as its territory, according to China.

Beijing made the statement after the Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Chinese ships were seen near Benham Rise.

“First, in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region. But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press conference on March 10.

Geng, citing international law, added that a state’s rights over the continental shelf do not affect foreign ships’ freedom of navigation in a state’s exclusive economic zone “or their innocent passage” through its territorial sea.

He also said that “Chinese vessels for marine research did sail across relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon, the Philippines last year, exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations.”

“It is hoped that individuals of the Philippines will stop playing up the false information and do more to promote mutual trust,” he said even as he pointed out that China and the Philippines, working together, have resolved their differences.