Lorenzana mum on Duterte’s remark on being “advised way ahead” China on ship
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana could not comment when he was asked by reporters Tuesday for a reaction that President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark in his press conference that the Philippines is “advised way ahead by China” of any activity.
“When he did say it?,” Lorenzana asked one reporter in an ambush interview on Tuesday. “Last night’s presscon,” was the reply.
“I cannot answer that,:” said Lorenzana as he left.
Duterte said in Monday night press conference that China advises them “way ahead” but then added;” But maybe we have the right to ask: ‘How are you? What is your purpose?’’
“We don’t want to dignify… things are going great our way, why spoil it?,” added Duterte.
Duterte said in the same press conference:”We previously agreed that they can. It’s a research ship. I am also inviting Russian battleship. We are advised way ahead.”
The Philippines sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy, seeking clarification on the presence of their vessels in Benham Rise but Beijing has not responded.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman last Friday has acknowledged Chinese ships have passed through Benham Rise waters, but maintained it was in exercise of China's "freedom of navigation" and "right to innocent passage."
Last week, Lorenzana revealed they monitored the presence of Chinese survey ship in Benham Rise, Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank.
Lorenzana said because of the monitored presence of Chinese survey ship, the Philippine may increase its patrol in Benham Rise which is located at the eastern waters of Luzon.
Lorenzana emphasized that Benham Rise is a “very rich area” and the spawning area of yellow fin tuna.
“If you’re going to see Benham Rise on the map its area is almost as big as northern and central Luzon, it’s very big, millions of hectares, so we will continue to study what will be the best way to develop that area for our needs,” he said.
Lorenzana said the Philippines may also conduct survey in Benham Rise to “exploit its resources”.
“We’ll try to do something, maybe we will also make a survey to determine its exact size and then later on we will decide what to do with the area,” Lorenzana said.
“Meantime, maybe we will send our patrols and then we will study what we can put there, we put there to exploit also the resources,” he said.
Lorenzana said the Philippine has rights over resources of Benham Rise although China is right on saying that it is not part of Philippine territory.
“Although China said that it’s not our territory, it is technically correct. Their statement is technically correct that it is not (part of) our territory because the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) will only give you exclusive economic zone. It’s not territory so they are right, but they are also not saying that it is their territory and they said that they respect our rights over Benham Rise,” he said.
“The president is saying that the Benham Rise is ours. That is why the Chinese are saying that it is not your territory but they didn’t say that we are entitled to all the economic benefits of Benham Rise because the UNCLOS give it to us, so it’s still ours,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS