P100-M allocation sought to finance survey mapping of Benham Rise » Manila Bulletin News

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By Ben Rosario

A P100-million allocation has been sought by the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs to finance the survey mapping of Benham Rise and the exploration of its mineral deposits as an alternative source of energy.

Chaired by Isabela Rep. Ana Cristina Siquian-Go, the foreign affairs panel through a resolution, recommended the Benham Rise region be renamed “Philippine Northeast Continental Shelf” to stress the propriety rights the country has over the area.

Filipino fishermen go about their fishing expedition a short distance away from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel from which a Philippine Flag is hoisted in Benham Rise, an area east of the Philippines that will soon be called the Philippine Rise. (Mark Balmores|Manila Bulletin File Photo)

The resolution was authored by Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano who stressed that the P100 million for the survey mapping of the physical dimension of the area is urgently needed to help guarantee that the country’s interests are protected.

Savellano called for the swift plenary adoption of the resolution that would direct the Departments of Science and Technology (DOST), Energy (DOE), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), of Agriculture (DA), and other government agencies the task of implementing the necessary measures and related activities for the survey mapping of Benham Rise.

Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau, is a 13-million-hectare undersea plateau approximately 160 nautical miles east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. It is located in the Central Basin Fault under the West Philippine Sea.

Savellano noted that scientific data on seismic, magnetic and other geological features of Benham Rise indicate that the region is an extension of the country’s continental shelf. The plateau is bigger than Luzon, or almost half the country’s total land area.

He lamented that Benham Rise was not included as territory of the Philippines despite the doctrine by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and provisions of Republic Act 9522 (Archipelagic Baselines Law) that Philippine territorial boundary extends beyond its territorial sea up to 200 hundred nautical mile exclusive economic zone from archipelagic baseline.

It will be recalled that a full territorial claim was lodged with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS) on April 9, 2009. In April 2012, UNCLOS recognized and officially approved the country’s claim. In effect, the territory of the Philippines increased from 30-million hectares to 43-million hectares.

Savellano said scientific surveys and initial marine exploration conducted after the July 16, 1990 earthquake show Benham Rise is rich in marine resources. Roughly 2,000 to 5,000 meters deep, Benham Rise has massive natural gas and oil deposits that can boost Philippine energy sufficiency.

It is also home to heavy metals and minerals used for the manufacture of high-technology components.

With the significant increase in Philippine territory and resources, the resolution said the existing Philippine marine map should be amended accordingly, the administration lawmaker said.

In pushing for the adoption of the resolution, Savellano stressed that the information produced from the study of the region would serve as reference as well as raw data for the benefit of potential investors for the exploration, development and exploitation of the rich resources of Benham Rise.

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