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2 Chinese vessels spotted at Philippine Rise, US analyst says

Two Chinese vessels have been spotted "loitering" in the area of the resource-rich Philippine Rise on the eastern side of Northern Luzon, an American maritime security analyst said.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) published Friday, former United States Air Force official and ex-Defense Attaché Ray Powell reported that two Chinese research vessels left port at Longxue Island in Guangzhou on Feb. 26 and moved east southeast through the Luzon Strait.

"As of 1 March they are loitering east of Luzon in the NE (Northeast) corner of Benham (Philippine) Rise, which is in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone," Powell said.

Based on the map posted by Powell, Chinese vessels Haiyang Dizhi Liuhao and Haiyang Dizhi Shihao sailed on the waters between Basco, Batanes and islands off the main island of Luzon.

GMA News Online has sought comment from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the matter.

Last September, National Security Council (NSC) assistant director general Jonathan Malaya said Manila has received reports of Chinese research vessels roaming in the waters of the Philippine Sea where the Philippine Rise is located.

Malaya had said that China already named some submerged features in the eastern side of the Philippines.

Formerly known as the Benham Rise, the Philippine Rise is a volcanic plateau that is part of the extended continental shelf in the Philippine Sea. It is a sprawling 13-million hectare undersea area off the coast of Aurora province.

In May 2017, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order to change the name of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise after Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area.

On the western side of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, China has maintained a maritime presence of Coast Guard, Navy, militia, and fishing vessels.

Over the past months, tensions have escalated in these waters as Chinese vessels have challenged the voyage of Philippine vessels to the traditional fishing grounds of Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, and Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal where the BRP Sierra Madre remains aground since 1999 as a symbol of the country's sovereignity over its waters.

In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, based on a case filed by Manila, junked China's nine-dash line claim covering the entire South China Sea.

Beijing has refused to acknowledge the ruling. — VDV, GMA Integrated News