By Floro Mercene
China appears interested in Benham Rise, even if the United Nations has awarded the 13-million-hectare undersea region as part of our continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) awarded Benham Rise to the Philippines in 2012, following years of filing the necessary documentations.
It was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who revealed that Chinese survey ships stayed in Benham Rise for three months, although the Chinese insist that their ship made an innocent passage on international waters.
Former National Security Adviser and ex-Parañaque Congressman Roilo Golez, said the Chinese was there most possibly to look for minerals and hydrocarbon deposits, or more ominous, to look for places where their submarine could hide.
Golez said at the Kapihan Sa Manila Hotel media forum that three months is more than enough to gather plenty of data to determine what lies beneath the seabed.
He said the Chinese survey ship was probably sophisticated enough to look for thermocline, a layer of water trapped between a mixed layer and deep water, where the temperature decreases rapidly.
This thermocline, Golez said, is where submarines can hide because sonar from enemy submarines is refracted by the various layers, so that detection is difficult if not impossible.
But instead of getting scared, China sound belligerent. This is the same pugnacious stance they showed at the height of the controversy during the last five years, over claims they owned the entire South China Sea, defined by their nine dash line.
“First, in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009 in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region. But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
“Second, according to international law including UNCLOS.”
(To be continued)