Philippine Coast Guard Deploys Vessel to Patrol Benham Rise

BRP Gabriela Silang. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA
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MANILA, Philippines: In response to reports of Chinese presence in the area, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has deployed its second largest and most modern vessel, BRP Gabriela Silang, for a two-week mission in Batanes and Benham Rise. This move aims to ensure maritime domain awareness, intensify Coast Guard presence in Northern Luzon, and monitor local fishermen.

According to PCG Spokesman Rear Admiral Armando Balilo, the primary objective of this deployment is to investigate the reported presence of Chinese research vessels in Benham Rise. The BRP Gabriela Silang will patrol the vicinity waters, conducting thorough surveillance and gathering crucial information.

To further enhance their capabilities, the Coast Guard Aviation Force has placed air assets on standby for possible augmentation. These assets will be utilized for aerial surveillance, providing additional support in monitoring the situation.

Col. Ray Powell, project director at Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, sheds light on the ongoing situation. According to Powell, two Chinese survey ships have been observed loitering in the area since their departure from the port of Longxue Island in Guangzhou on February 26.

This development raises concerns about the intentions behind the Chinese presence in Batanes and Benham Rise. The Philippine Coast Guard’s proactive response demonstrates its commitment to safeguarding the nation’s territorial integrity and protecting the interests of its citizens.

Batanes and Benham Rise hold significant strategic importance for the Philippines. Batanes, located in the northernmost part of the country, serves as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean. Benham Rise, on the other hand, is an underwater plateau rich in resources and potential maritime economic zones.

Given the geopolitical complexities in the region, it is crucial for the Philippine Coast Guard to maintain a strong presence and ensure the enforcement of maritime laws. This includes monitoring and regulating fishing activities to protect the marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of local fishermen.

The deployment of the BRP Gabriela Silang, equipped with modern surveillance technology, underscores the PCG’s commitment to upholding maritime security. By conducting regular patrols and monitoring activities in Batanes and Benham Rise, the Coast Guard aims to deter any unauthorized presence and maintain peace and stability in the area.

It is important to note that the presence of Chinese research vessels in the region raises questions about compliance with international laws and regulations. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) grants coastal states exclusive rights over the exploration and exploitation of resources within their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

The Philippines, as a signatory to UNCLOS, has the responsibility to protect its sovereign rights over its EEZs. Any activities conducted by foreign vessels within these zones should be in accordance with international law and with the consent of the coastal state.

The Philippine Coast Guard’s vigilant monitoring of Chinese presence in Batanes and Benham Rise serves as a clear message that the nation is committed to upholding its territorial integrity and protecting its maritime interests. Through this mission, the PCG aims to ensure the safety and security of its waters, as well as promote regional stability and cooperation.

In conclusion, the deployment of the BRP Gabriela Silang by the Philippine Coast Guard in response to reports of Chinese presence in Batanes and Benham Rise demonstrates the nation’s commitment to maritime security. By conducting thorough surveillance and monitoring activities, the Coast Guard aims to safeguard its territorial integrity and protect the interests of its citizens. This proactive approach serves as a testament to the Philippines’ commitment to upholding international laws and regulations in the region.

Source: The Manila Times

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