PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order officially renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” to use the resource-rich territory off the coast of Aurora province.
He signed Executive Order 25 on May 16 renaming the 13-million-hectare area undersea landmass off Aurora.
“All departments, subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities of the government shall henceforth use and employ the name ‘Philippine Rise’ in all official documents in referring to the undersea feature,” the EO says.
In other developments:
• China on Monday sidestepped claims by Duterte that it had threatened to go to war over the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing last week, said Friday the leaders had raised conflict as an option to resolving their competing claims to the waters.
“I really said it to their face. That is ours and we intend to drill oil there,” said Duterte, who claimed he made the comments public in response to domestic criticism he was being too weak with China over the row.
“And they told me: ‘Well, we’re friends. We do not want to quarrel with you. We want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue we’ll go to war.’”
• Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said he had advised Duterte to revisit the joint-patrol exercises with the Americans of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s threat of war.
In a statement, the senior diplomat, who pushed for filing a case and won against China’s excessive claims to the disputed sea, said reviving such activities would help the country defend its national interest and territorial integrity.
“The joint patrol of our EEZ with the US and possibly other partners would be a combined strategic and tactical move for the Philippine government in defending our national interest and territorial integrity,” Del Rosario said.
• More senators on Monday joined the call of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to immediately elevate the threat that the Chinese President allegedly issued against the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea to the United Nations.”
They were Panfilo Lacson, Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan.
“Obviously, veiled or not that’s threat. To say that, when he mentioned, assuming President Duterte’s paraphrase was accurate, obviously what the Chinese president said was a threat,” Senator Lacson said.
Duterte has also instructed the Foreign Affairs Department “to notify concerned international organizations” of the change in the name of the seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge.
The Philippine Rise contains vast undersea deposits of minerals like nickel, copper and silver, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who led a three-day expedition aboard the M/V DA-BFAR early this month, said his department wanted to focus on exploring the region’s potentials for food security.
The United Nations Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2012 approved the Philippines’ claim for the extended continental shelf after Manila successfully proved that it was part of Isabela province’s extended continental shelf.