By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine Rise belongs to the country despite China’s decision to name some undersea features of the area, President Duterte said Monday night.
The President tried to downplay the Chinese names given to the features of the area previously known as Benham Rise as part of their scientific exploration.
“This Philippine Rise is ours, period. The continental shelf, below it is Philippine jurisdiction, that is ours,” Duterte said during the 10th biennial national convention and 20th anniversary celebration of the Chinese Filipino Business Club, Inc. at the Manila Hotel.
“Now ngayon, pumunta ang China, naglagay ng markers, mga ganun…tapos Chinese characters. Eh alang-alang gawain nilang German, ang alam lang nila Chinese [Now China went there, placed some markers in Chinese characters. They would not do it in German, they know Chinese],” he said.
“Those are just directions na tapos na sila diyan [that they are finished there]. Of course, they do it in Chinese because it’s their dialect, alangan i-Tagalog mo ‘yan? [They wouldn’t give Filipino names]. Those are fixtures or features,” he said.
China earlier succeeded in registering official names to five undersea features of the Philippine Rise following a maritime survey. The Chinese names were reportedly approved by the International Hydrographic Organization last year.
In case oil is found in the area, the President hinted his willingness to allow the country’s joint exploration with China.
“Maybe someday magsabi sila, ‘There’s a lot of oil there eh. If you want we can explore it together,’ Fine,” he said.
The Philippine government, earlier, said it will not recognize the names given by China to the Benham Rise features. The region, which has an area of 24 million hectares, is located with the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Duterte said the government previously allowed undersea expeditions in the Philippine Rise, citing the studies made by the United States, China and other countries.
“If it goes as far as Guam, akin ‘yan. Pagka p**** ‘yan doon sa ilalim, ‘pag umabot ng San Francisco, akin ‘yan, ‘wag mong galawin. I will insist,” he said.
For now, the government has imposed stricter guidelines on foreign expeditions in the Philippine Rise.
“I am not allowing any expedition anymore unless you get a permit from the President,” he said.
“He (Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzan) has to give the recommendation, then he has to consult the commands. Then if the military says that it’s good, it can be done, well, I’ll give you the permit,” he added.