Despite recognition of sovereignty from the United Nations, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said Philippines will not fight for the “ownership” of the disputed mineral-rich Benham Rise.
In a press conference in Malacañang, the President said “let’s not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for our countries.”
“I can’t match the might of China – kita mo kanina (see) how they prepare for terrorism? Wow. Why would I pick a fight, I’d rather talk,” he added.
Last Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Philippines cannot claim full ownership of the Benham Rise, even as he reiterated the reported passage of a Chinese survey ship through the Philippines territorial waters was “innocent” and unintentional.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said a Chinese survey ship was seen sailing around the region for three months last year, adding that he had received reports indicating the Chinese were looking for possible submarine stations.
As defined by the 1982 UNCLOS, Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau, lies within the continental shelf of the Philippines. The undersea landmass in the Pacific Ocean is potentially rich in mineral and natural gas deposits.