Thank goodness Benham Rise is found at the coastal region of Isabela and Aurora provinces in the East and not somewhere in the West where China’s nine-dash line lay claim to almost all of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
What am I talking about?
Well, Benham Rise is an undersea region that was between 40 and 2000 meters below the waterline when it was discovered in 1933 by an American geologist surnamed Benham.
The Philippines is now claiming the area after having proven that it is indeed part and, in fact, an extension of the country’s eastern continental shelf.
The UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines the continental shelf as “the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea” up to 370 km (200 nautical miles) from the archipelagic baseline. An extended continental shelf goes farther than 370 km.
“We have submitted a claim under (UNCLOS) sometime in late 2008. We got a reply from the UN lately (asking us) to answer some questions. They intend to pass a resolution sometime in mid-2012 to approve our claim (that it is) part of the Philippine continental shelf,” Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje said, in a statement, after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) formally submitted its proposed P16.99-billion (US$40 million) budget for 2012 to the Senate finance committee.
According to Paje the area being claimed could translate to a gain of 13 million hectares in additional territory, an area slightly smaller than Luzon, should the United Nations decide favorably on it
What is very encouraging and promising is that studies conducted by the DENR for the past five years indicate large deposits of methane in solid form. This observation was confirmed by the National Mapping Resource Information Agency, which also reported the existence of solid methane.
Paje said gas deposits in the area would enable the country to achieve energy sufficiency.
This development prompted Sen. Franklin Drilon to say that once the UNCLOS establishes that Benham Rise is part of the Philippines, “we would have legal basis to enter into exploration agreements with private companies to explore…(the area’s) resources.”
Drilon added that a favorable UNCLOS declaration would mean “increasing our territory from present 30 million hectares to possibly 43 million” with the inclusion of Benham Rise.