By Genalyn D. Kabiling
President Duterte is planning to visit the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, next week to assert the country’s ownership of the massive undersea region.
The President bared his upcoming voyage to the Philippine Rise as he vowed to wage war in the event any foreign power tries to seize control of the Philippine territory.
“Next week, I’m going to sail, set sail, I’m going to Benham Rise and I will make a statement there that nobody, but nobody, owns this place, including the continental shelf, the underground land mass that extends under the sea,” Duterte said before an assembly of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines in Davao City Thursday. “And if it extends to San Francisco Bay, San Francisco Bay is a property of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
The President, who has restricted foreign marine research on the Philippine Rise, said he was ready to defend the territory from those who would try to occupy and claim the area.
“When the issue of Benham Rise, Philippine Rise, there were so many ships there doing explorations, and when this crucial question was asked of me ‘What will do you if they also claim it?’ and I said, ‘I will go to war.’ And I will go to war, believe me,” he said.
The President ordered a halt to the marine explorations by foreign entities in the Philippine Rise early this year, giving priority instead to Filipino explorers. Duterte has also authorized the military to chase away foreign vessels in the Philippine Rise, insisting the area is “ours.”