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WATCH | China ships in PH-owned Benham Rise, scouting for subs' parking sites - DND

Benham Rise seen relative to Luzon mainland in map from website of Fish Information and Services, or
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 2 - 9:30 p.m.) MANILA - China may be casting a covetous eye on Benham Rise, over which the Philippines has undisputed claim in the United Nations, with a possible agenda: scouting for sites to park its submarines, the Department of National Defense (DND) hinted Thursday. In fact, one Chinese survey ship figured in an accident.

If unchecked, said DND, this foray could become another source of conflict between the Asian neighbors, who had already tangled earlier in the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) where Manila complained against Beijing's "excessive" claims in the South China Sea with its nine-dash line claim.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the revelation on China's forays in the Benham Rise area at a threat assessment forum in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday. According to him, Chinese ships have been spotted in the area located in Northeastern Luzon.

Lorenzana said satellite photos and incident reports provided the basis for his alert.

While the motivations for the reported Chinese survey have yet to be confirmed, Lorenzana said reports reaching him showed the Chinese could be scouting for a spot to place their submarines in .

In fact, he said, a Chinese ship figured in an accident in Benham Rise, prompting the survey team to send one of its men to a hospital in Surigao. “So we know they are there,” Lorenzana said.

Six-term member of the House of Representatives and former national security adviser Roilo Golez had earlier on, in January, warned about China's interest in Benham Rise: "I fear China has its lustful eyes on our East Sea.

"If we allow ourselves to be lulled by China's charm offensive, I am afraid their next creeping move may be toward our East Sea, it's lustful eyes on our 13 million hectare Benham Rise off Aurora province, awarded to us by the United Nations in 2012 as part of the Philippine continental shelf and territory.

"Before this award, our territory was only around 30 million hectares. Now, it is 43 million hectares taking Benham Rise into consideration."

Click and watch the video report here: