Duterte: If you take from Benham Rise, I'll order Navy to fire

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President Rodrigo Duterte. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 10) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he will order the Philippine Navy to fire at those who try to exploit the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a press conference in Davao City, the President maintained the Philippines' sovereign rights over the Benham Rise, an undersea plateau.

"I hope (the continental shelf) does not reach Guam now because Guam will be ours also," he said. "But just the same, we cannot fight  America, just like China. I'll just keep quiet. But if you get something there from the economic zone, I will order the Navy to fire."

A large part of Benham Rise, located 135 miles off Aurora, is part of the country's EEZ. The remaining part not under the country's EEZ was granted by the United Nations as part the Philippines' extended continental shelf (ECS).

An EEZ, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, grants a state special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.

Since the country has sovereign rights over Benham Rise, it has sole right to explore for and exploit oil, gas and other mineral resources in the area.

Duterte also said he will claim "exclusive ownership" of the economic zones by ordering the military to protect the undersea plateau.

"I said and ordered the Philippine Navy and Air Force to do regular patrols," Duterte said.

The President's threat comes after he ordered to take back any existing permits for foreign research in Benham Rise, which is also called the Philippine Rise.

Under international law, no foreign vessel is also allowed to conduct any form of research within the EEZ or ECS without the permission or consent of the Philippine government.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified there was no research ban — only an additional requirement of a license from the National Security Adviser.

On January 19, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China was allowed to conduct research in the area since their team included a Filipino scientist on board. DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano said China agreed to share data on their research.

The move to allow China's research in Benham Rise drew flak from critics, after the country refused to adhere to the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute.

READ: Palace: No ban on foreign research in Philippine Rise