He allowed China to survey and do some research on Benham Rise, “They have no incursion because we have an agreement,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters when asked about the reported presence of Chinese survey ships at Benham Rise.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte – Philippine Star

Duterte disclosed in a media interview that it was he who allowed China to survey and do some research on Benham Rise, contradicting his defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana who described their presence as “very alarming”.

Duterte told reporters that he had agreed and allowed China to do research by sending some of the Chinese survey ships in Benham Rise.

Duterte said “he did not want to have a “fight” with China over Benham Rise — waters recognized by the United Nation as an indisputably Philippine territory — partly because he wanted Chinese economic help.”

“Some people are just blowing it up. We previously agreed. It was a research ship. We were advised of it way ahead.”

The Benham Rise

Duterte’s comments came after his defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said last week that Chinese surveillance ships had been seen in Benham Rise, which is believed to sit atop lucrative oil and gas deposits.

“The very concerning thing is they have several survey ships plying this area, staying in one area sometimes for a month as if doing nothing. But we believe they are actually surveying the seabed,” Lorenzana said.

“I have ordered the Navy that if they see this survey ship this year, to start to accost them and drive them away.”

Lorenzana said China may be “looking for a place to put submarines”.

Duterte emphasized Monday the Philippines was set to enjoy billions of dollars in Chinese investments and grants, following his decision not to argue with China over another territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

“Let us not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for my country,” Duterte added. – JCE