PCG deploys vessel to check presence of Chinese ships in Benham Rise

The Philippines on Monday deployed a coastguard vessel to carry out a two-week patrol mission in waters north and east of the country to intensify its maritime presence and check on Chinese research vessels that were spotted in Benham Rise.

Benham Rise, which sits off the Philippines’ east coast, is a vast area declared by the United Nations in 2012 as part of the country’s continental shelf. Manila in 2017 renamed it “Philippine Rise.”

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said in a statement its BRP Gabriela Silang will patrol the waters to conduct maritime domain awareness, intensify its presence in the northern Luzon island and monitor local fishermen.

“We will also check the reported Chinese research vessels in Benham Rise,” PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said.

According to the PCG, air assets of its Coast Guard Aviation Force are on standby for possible augmentation in performing aerial surveillance.

Benham Rise, said to be rich in biodiversity and fish stocks, is not in the South China Sea and Beijing has made no claim to it.

China is, however, involved in a territorial dispute with the Philippines over islands in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely despite a 2016 arbitration ruling that said its claim had no legal basis under international law.

Ray Powell, director of SeaLight at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, said on platform X on Friday that two Chinese research vessels left a port in Longxue Island in Guangzhou on Feb. 26 and were “loitering” northeast of Benham Rise, within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.

No longer in Benham Rise

Meanwhile, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea (WPS), said that the two Chinese research vessels were no longer in Benham Rise.

“As of yesterday morning, malayo na, labas na sa ating EEZ, mga 800 miles na (it was already far outside the EEZ, around 800 miles.)

Trinidad said the research vessels just passed through the EEZ and did not violate any laws.

“Walang nagawang violation. Wala na-monitor na whatever they did. Wala naman (No violation has been done. No action has been monitored. Nothing),” he added.

While the monitoring over Benham Rise is 24/7, Trinidad said there is no response capability in the area.

“But we would like to achieve that capability,” Trinidad said.— Reuters with Joviland Rita/RSJ, GMA Integrated News

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