Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Tuesday that Beijing fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in Benham Rise, adding that China is not challenging those rights.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had described reports about Chinese survey ships cruising near the region as very concerning as he ordered the Navy to drive away the service ship. For his part, President Rodrigo 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. The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed the remarks of Duterte and stressed that under international law, China can enjoy freedom of navigation in the region.