China welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendly remarks on the Chinese presence of research vessels, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.
“China welcomes and commends relevant remarks by President Duterte. As he said, China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts and appropriately handled the issue,” she said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Duterte said in a press briefing on Monday that he was informed beforehand of Chinese sending of survey ships to Benham Rise. He also said he instructed the military to assert Philippine ownership in a friendly manner.
Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed that Chinese survey ships were spotted in Benham Rise for as long as three months last year.
Hua said China respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in Benham Rise and they are not challenging those rights.
“But the basic principle of international law says that the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the continental shelf do not equate with territories,” she said.
The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The undersea region and biodiversity hotspot located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean is not part of China’s nine-dash-line claim. CBB