(Eagle News) — China said it “fully respects the Philippines’ rights to the continental shelf of Benham Rise” and clarified that it has no intention of challenging these rights.
This was China’s latest statement on the issue of Benham Rise coming from its foreign ministry amid various reports on the issue that seemed to try to put the Philippines and China at odds over this.
“I’m willing to reiterate that China fully respects the Philippines’ rights to the continental shelf of Benham Rise. There is no such thing as to challenging its right,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Tuesday.
She also said that China also appreciated how President Rodrigo Duterte handled the issue when he revealed that there had been a previous agreement before on the visit of Chinese research vessels in Benham Rise.
“China welcomes and appreciates President Duterte’s comments. Just as what President Duterte has said, China and the Philippines have conducted communication on the issue, friendly exchanged ideas, clarified facts and handled it properly,” the Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Hua made the remarks in response to President Duterte’s comment that the Philippines and China had had exchanges on Chinese research ships.
But Hua also said that it was a “fundamental principle of the international law, one’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf does not belong to its territory.”
“While a coastal nation exercises its rights on a continental shelf, others’ rights enjoyed under international law, including freedom of navigation, should not be harmed,” said Hua.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier clarified that he had agreed to allow China to conduct a research activity in Benham Rise.
“Some people are just blowing it up. We previously agreed. It was a research ship. We were advised of it way ahead,” the chief executive said.
Duterte said he doesn’t want to pick a fight with China and said that he does not see the presence of the Chinese ships off the country’s northeastern coast as an “incursion.”
“They have no incursion because we have an agreement,” Duterte in an earlier news conference said.
“Let us not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for my country,” Duterte said in reference to China.
Duterte said that he had already instructed the military to claim the Benham rise as “ours” in a friendly way.
“My order to my military, you go there and tell them straight that this is ours, but I say it in friendship,” Duterte said.
The Philippine military reported that it spotted the presence of Chinese survey ships plying in the Benham Rise Platue for almost a month.
(with a report from China Central Television)