- A Chinese vessel has been spotted surveying Benham Rise
- The Defense department said the incident happened last year
- The Navy has been ordered to monitor and drive away these ships
MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese survey ship has been spotted in Benham Rise last year; this was revealed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in what could trigger another diplomatic tension between the Philippines and China.
Lorenzana said the Navy monitored the presence of the Chinese vessel in Benham Rise for three months, but have yet to determine the purpose of ship’s plying the territory which has been officially recognized as part of the Philippine archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“One of the survey ships is also plying the Benham Rise already. Last year, it was monitored for about three months. We started to look at some of the — we still have some friends who give us satellite photos, [and] these ships were actually plying the Benham Rise north of the Philippines [up] to Surigao,” said Lorenzana.
“I ordered the Navy that if they see this service ship this year, start to accost them and drive them away from the eastern side of the Philippines,” the DFA official added.
Lorenzana also recalled an incident in December during which the Chinese vessel had an accident while surveying the Benham Rise. The Chinese ship reportedly had to dock in Surigao City to bring their men to a local hospital.
Benham Rise is a 13-million hectare submerged region, rising 2,000 kilometers above the sea floor, located approximately 250 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Isabela.
After the Philippines filed its claim over the region, the UN has officially recognized Benham Rise as part of the country’s continental shelf. No country has ever laid claim to Benham Rise except the Philippines.
It is widely believed to be very rich in gas, minerals and other natural resources.
Video of Filipino divers exploring Benham Rise: