MANILA Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday expressed support to President Rodrigo R. Duterte's visit to the Philippine Rise, saying the President's action not only clearly asserts the country's sovereignty over the undersea feature but would also deter future intrusions in the vast resource-rich area.
"Sa West Philippine Sea naroon ang problema. Ang Philippine Rise wala pang problema. So mas maganda symbolically nagpunta siya roonto assert our sovereignty na talagang sa atin (The problem is in the West Philippine Sea. There is no problem with the Philippine Rise. So it is better symbolically that he went there to assert our sovereignty that's truly ours), he said in an ambush interview at the Senate.
Hindi natin ma-foresee baka mamaya meron din mga intrusion. So mainam ginawa yang ganoon (We could not foresee maybe there are still intrusions. So it's good that he went there)," Lacson said.
Duterte's trip to the 13-million-hectare underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora province coincides with the first anniversary of the renaming of the region.
On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 which changed the name of the underwater plateau from Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.
The trip will also mark the ceremonial send-off for some 50 Filipino scientists who will undertake research on the region, a move that Lacson said he also supports.
"I think it's good that the President himself went there and brought along researchers to really assert very clearly that 'hey, this is really ours. Don't touch it! Lacson added.
President Duterte's visit to the Philippine Rise comes two weeks after he vowed to wage war on any foreign nation that tries to seize control of Philippine territory.
The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf ruled on April 12, 2012 that the Philippine Rise is part of the Philippines' continental shelf.
The ruling grants the Philippines the sole rights to explore and exploit resources in the undersea plateau.
"Next week, I'm going to set sail, I'm going to Benham Rise. 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, he said in a speech delivered in Davao City last April 27.
We are an independent nation. When the issue of Benham Rise, Philippine Rise, that there were so many ships doing explorations. When this crucial question was asked of me, 'What will you do if they also claim it?' I said, 'I will go to war'. And I will go to war, believe me, Duterte said.
The President made the statements over reports that Chinese research vessels have explored the region for three months sometime in 2016.
Last year, Chinese researchers have given Chinese names to five undersea features of the region. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency