President Rodrigo Duterte said that he will order the Philippine Navy to fire at those who try to exploit the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“I hope (the continental shelf) does not reach Guam now because Guam will be ours also,” he said. “But just the same, we cannot fight America, just like China. I’ll just keep quiet. But if you get something there from the economic zone, I will order the Navy to fire.”
A large part of Benham Rise, located 135 miles off Aurora, is part of the country’s EEZ. The remaining part not under the country’s EEZ was granted by the United Nations as part the Philippines’ extended continental shelf (ECS). An EEZ, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, grants state special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.
According to Duterte, he will claim “exclusive ownership” of the economic zones by ordering the military to protect the undersea plateau.
“I said and ordered the Philippine Navy and Air Force to do regular patrols,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s threat comes after he ordered to take back any existing permits for foreign research in Benham Rise, which is also called the Philippine Rise.
However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified there was no research ban — only an additional requirement of a license from the National Security Adviser.
On January 19, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China was allowed to conduct research in the area since their team included a Filipino scientist on board. DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano said China agreed to share data on their research.