- The Philippine Navy has sent BRP Ramon Alcaraz to Benham Rise
- The underwater region will now be regularly patrolled by the Navy warship
- The move came amid reports that Chinese survey ships were spotted in the area last year
MANILA, Philippines – Amid reports that China is setting its sights on Benham Rise, the Philippine Navy has sent one of its warship to regularly patrol the 13-million hectare submerged region believed to be rich in natural gas and marine resources.
In a statement on Friday, March 24, the Defense department said Benham Rise will now be part of BRP Ramon Alcaraz’s regular patrol routes. The Hamilton-class cutter is one of the Navy’s warships which was recently acquired from the United States Coast Guard.
“The Navy will henceforth regularly patrol Benham Rise partly due to past Chinese activities there but more importantly because it is part of our continental shelf and awarded to us by the UN,” said a statement from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lorenzana added this would be part of the government’s preparation for further activities in the area.
“Our next activity is to have the area surveyed to clearly determine its limits, depths, coral formations, etc.,” he said.
Early this month, Lorenzana revealed Chinese survey ships has been spotted in Benham Rise last year; raising speculations that Beijing could be eyeing the region as its next target. However, this was quickly denied by the Chinese government; saying the ships were only passing through.
The BRP Alcaraz’s deployment came even as President Rodrigo Duterte admitted the Philippines cannot stop China’s illegal activities in some of the contested islands in the West Philippine Sea.