The House committee on foreign affairs chaired by Rep. Ana Cristina Siquian Go (2nd District, Isabela) has approved House Resolution 45 seeking the allocation of P100 million for the survey mapping of Benham Rise and exploration of its mineral deposits as an alternative source of energy.
The resolution, authored by Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano (1st District, Ilocos Sur), called for a funding of no less than P100 million for the survey and mapping of the physical dimension of the area, noting the exploration is of immense interest for the development of the country.
The resolution also sought to rename the region “Philippine Northeast Continental Shelf” to mark the proprietary right of the country over the area.
The resolution gives 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.
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.
The resolution noted 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 No. 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.
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.
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 to Philippine territory and resources, the resolution said the existing Philippine marine map should be amended accordingly.
Likewise, the resolution said that 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.