The Philippine Rise belongs to the Filipino nation and no foreign intrusion will be allowed into the territory, President Duterte declared Monday.
The President said he already made clear that the area, formerly known as Benham Rise, remained an exclusive property of the Philippines.
“Benham Rise is exclusively Philippine property. I have made it clear to all, to the world, I will not allow any intrusion there,” he said during his televised speech Monday night, May 17.
“Well of course, the right to innocent passage is everybody’s privilege but to allow anybody even just to try to exploit or to even to look, I will not allow them to do that because Philippine Rise belongs to the Filipino people,” he added.
The massive undersea region near Aurora province is located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. After some Chinese ships were spotted in the area back in 2017, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 changing the name of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise in a bid to assert the country’s sovereignty. A portion of the Philippine Rise was later declared a marine protected area.
In 2018, Duterte prohibited maritime explorations by foreign entities in the Philippine Rise, giving priority instead to Filipino explorers. Duterte has also authorized the military to chase away foreign vessels in the territory.
The President’s latest remarks came after former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile suggesting to the government to allow the oil exploration in the Philippine Rise.