Roque: PH has sovereign rights, not title over Benham Rise

In a regular press conference on Monday, January 22,Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines has sovereign rights, not title to explore and exploit the natural resources found in the Benham Rise region.

"Sovereign right is different from title. Sovereign right is the exclusive right to explore and exploit the natural and non-living resources, natural resources found in the area," Roque clarified in a Malacañang press briefing. "Kasama po sa exclusive na karapatan ng sovereign rights ay `yung desisyon, iyong sovereign decision na payagan iyong ibang mga bansa na mag-conduct ng scientific studies," (Included in these rights is the sovereign right if other countries will be allowed to conduct scientific studies ) he said.

In line with this, the President`s spokesperson mentioned two conditions that the Philippine government has imposed that Filipino scientists will participate and that the result of the scientific research will be shared with the Filipinos. As for the Scarborough Shoal issue, Roque said it was covered by the obligation of good faith between China and the Philippines that the former would not reclaim nor create artificial islands.

He added that the two countries are both interested in maintaining their current good relations. "Ang interest po ng Filipino ngayon ng Pilipinas ay yung karapatan ng ating mga mangingisda na magpatuloy sa kanilang hanap-buhay na pangingisda dyan sa borough ay iyan naman po`y nangyayari ngayon," (The interest of the Filipinos are the rights of fisherfolk and the need for them to continue fishing in these areas, which they continue to do) Roque underscored. 

The clarification by the presidential spokesman comes as United States warships reportedly crossed into areas near the disputed Panatag Shoal, which is part of the areas claimed by the Philippines and China in an ongoing maritime dispute on the South China Sea, and the scienfitic expeditions being undertaken by Chinese and Filipino researchers in the Benham Rise, another area located within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone located East of Cagayan province in the island of Luzon . 

Photo: presidential photos

(with a report from PCOO)