FACT CHECK: Bong Go did not raise Philippine flag at Benham Rise
Claim: Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go raised the Philippine flag at Benham Rise or Philippine Rise.
The claim was published on May 16 with a headline “SAP Bong Go, Itinaas Ang Bandera ng Pilipinas sa Benham Rise” (SAP Bong Go Raises Philippine Flag at Benham Rise) by bonggo4senator.blogspot.com, a blog pushing a senatorial run for Go in 2019.
According to the blog post, millions of barrels of oil can be extracted in the said area, and that Go “risked” his life by going there to “defend every Filipino’s rights.”
The post was shared by 14 different Facebook pages and groups while a similar claim was published by duterte.today and abogado.ptvbalita.com.
The facts: Go and presidential son Sebastian “Baste” Duterte rode jet skis only around Casiguran Sound in Aurora province. The two did not reach Benham Rise, which was about 120 nautical miles or 222 kms away from Casiguran.
The Philippine flag was attached at the rear end of their jet skis.
This happened on May 15 during the send-off celebration led by President Rodrigo Duterte aboard the BRP Davao del Sur in Casiguran for the all-Filipino maritime research expedition team, composed of scientists and divers tasked to conduct research at Benham Rise and plant the Philippine flag at the most shallow part of the area.
Duterte earlier said he'd be going to Philippine Rise himself. (READ: Duterte breaks promise to visit Philippine Rise)
“I'm going to Benham Rise, and I'm going to make a statement there that nobody but nobody owns this place,” said Duterte on April 26 in response to public criticism over allowing Chinese vessels and researchers to conduct a study on Benham Rise.
However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained on May 15 that it was not feasible for the President to go to Benham Rise, and the trip was meant only to be symbolic.
The Philippines is the only country claiming rights over Benham Rise.
It is the West Philippine Sea that China is claiming for its own, despite a 2016 international ruling that asserted the Philippines' rights over these waters. – Miguel Imperial and Michael Bueza / Rappler.com