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Duterte: Philippine Rise is ours

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday asserted the country’s sovereignty over the Philippine Rise.

Duterte said he does not distinguish between sovereign rights and sovereign territory because the underwater feature falls within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

“I no longer talk about sovereign [territory] or sovereign rights. I do not make any distinction. If it’s within our [Exclusive] Economic Zone, it’s ours,” he said in a program commemorating the first anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 25, which renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.

Duterte also signed an executive proclamation formally declaring parts of Philippine Rise as a marine reserve.

“Last year I issued Executive Order No. 25 which renamed the erstwhile Benham Rise to the Philippine Rise. Today I am issuing a presidential proclamation formally declaring parts of this undersea feature as a marine reserve,” he said.

The President said around 50,000 hectares of the Philippine Rise should become a strict protection zone limited to scientific studies to be conducted only by Filipinos at this time.

Duterte added that more than 300 hectares should be designated as a “special fisheries management area.”

Moreover, the President led the send-off for some 50 Filipino scientists set to begin six-month research in the Philippine Rise.

“Today we send off our team of talented and competent Filipino scientists who will undertake the coordinated national marine scientific research in the waters above the Philippine Rise,” Duterte said.

The scientists will conduct mapping surveys, biological investigations, and assessment of the coral reef and fishery stock until November.

Duterte assured the scientists that the resources of the government are at their disposal.

The President stressed that the activities to be conducted by the scientists would be “vital to the protection and management of Philippine Rise and its vast resources.”

“I have complete faith in the capabilities of our world-class scientists, and I recognize the need to provide them with the necessary means to fulfill [their] mandate,” Duterte said as he joked that he would give the scientists one boat each.

He noted that when the United Nations Commissioner on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the country’s claim to the Philippine Rise a few years ago, the Philippines was “not just granted access to the vast resources” but was also “entrusted with the responsibility to protect it from abuse and misuse.”

After the program, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go and presidential son Sebastian Duterte rode jet skis bearing the Philippine flag around Casiguran Bay to mark the country’s claim to the Philippine Rise. #