Even though the Benham Rise is well within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, the Philippines cannot claim it as its own territory, Beijing said.
The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved in 2012 the submission of the Philippines in 2009 claiming Benham Rise region is on its extended continental shelf. The approval enables the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in the area.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a recent statement that the UN approval does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory.” It can never be part of Philippines territory.
Professor Julian Ku, an international law expert, and professor at the Hofstra University, said that the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the issue is disturbing, troubling and raise confusion.
“Actually, that’s what it means. UNCLOS Art. 76(8) makes those [Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf] recommendations ‘final and binding’ if [the Philippines] accepts (it did),”. Ku said on Twitter
Paragraph 1, Article 77 of the UNLCOS states that a state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of “exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.”
“The rights referred to in paragraph 1 are exclusive in the sense that if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the express consent of the coastal State,” the UNCLOS states.
Recently, the Department of National Defense confirmed that Chinese survey ships have conducted oceanographic research in the region.
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The Department of Foreign Affairs had sent a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Manila to get clarification and explain the reported incursion into the country’s territorial waters. – JCE.