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Sunday, April 14, 2024

China vessels leave Benham—Navy

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The Philippine Navy on Sunday said that the Chinese research vessels seen in the waters surrounding Benham Rise or Philippine Rise located in the East Philippine Sea are now outside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Commodore Roy Trinidad, the Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, confirmed this development, adding that the Navy will conduct reconnaissance flights to confirm the location of the two vessels.

“We will know by today and they will fly an air surveillance flight,” Trinidad said.

Larger than Luzon, the Philippine Rise is significant due to its rich biodiversity and potential mineral and natural gas deposits. It is also serves as a crucial fishing ground and a marine biodiversity hotspot.

Earlier, former United States Air Force official Ray Powell said thetwo Chinese research vessels were seen loitering around Benham Rise on the northeastern side of Luzon.

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On his X account, Powell said the Chinese vessels left from Longxue Island in Guangzhou before moving through Benham Rise, which is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“As of 1 March they are loitering east of Luzon in the NE (Northeast) corner of Benham (Philippine) Rise,” Powell said.

In the satellite image posted by Powell, the two vessels were identified as Haiyang Dizhi Liuhao and Haiyang Dizhi Liuhao.

Powell, in his X post, also said the Chinese vessels sailed from Longque Island in Guangzhou province on Feb. 26 and moved east-southeast through the Luzon Strait.

“So we can say that this is open source monitoring,” Trinidad said, citing Powell’s social media posts.

Trinidad also said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines have also been informed and that the Navy has corresponding capability development plans, especially for Benham Rise. Trinidad said that the vessels might have only conducted “a normal transit passage.”

The official said the presence of the vessels is not “a cause of concern.” “It is not a cause of concern kasi based on United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), authorized naman dumaan sa exclusive economic zone ng isang coastal state ang maritime traffic,” Trinidad, quoted by reports, said. The vessels were last spotted 600 nautical miles east of Casiguran or beyond the country’s exclusive economic zone, as of Sunday morning, according to Trinidad.

Dr. Chester Cabalza, founding president of think-tank International Development and Security Cooperation, meanwhile said the UNCLOS do allow passage of foreign vessels in the waters in an exclusive economic zone as long as the vessels do not participate in proprietary activities reserved for the coastal state, such as fishing or conducting research, without permission. He urged the government to strengthen the country’s maritime presence to protect the territory.

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