President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit the Benham Rise on May 15 to 16 in line with the first anniversary of the undersea region’s renaming to Philippine Rise, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Duterte signed Executive Order 25 on May 16 last year to change the name of the underwater plateau, after Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the region.
Apart from the commemoration, Duterte’s visit will also mark the launch of the research to be conducted by around 50 Filipino scientists.
“The event will be attended by 50 scientists whom the President will be sending off as they start their scientific researches in Philippine Rise,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced.
Duterte had said that he wanted to sail to Benham Rise to make a statement that the Philippines enjoys sovereign rights over the area.
The President has repeatedly asserted that only Filipinos have the right to explore and exploit the resources in the undersea plateau and that the only right that foreigners can exercise in Benham Rise is the right to innocent passage.
He had deployed a Marine battalion to safeguard the country's sovereign interests there and warned that war could erupt if foreigners take anything from the Benham Rise.
The 13-million hectare undersea plateau off Aurora province is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as recognized by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2012.
The area is believed to be rich in gas, minerals and marine life. — MDM, GMA News