Benham Rise to Philippine Rise: what is in a name?

It really blows my mind why we have to change the name Benham Rise to Philippine Rise if all these years we know that it is undeniably ours?

Would the 13 million-hectare underwater region, which is deemed to be rich in mineral, oil and gas resources and confirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as part of the country’s continental shelf and territory, be more ours by renaming it to Philippine Rise?

What is in a name, anyway, if the same gives inspiration and hope for a better future for the country and the next generation of Filipinos while respectfully remembering and extolling the memory of an American admiral and geologist, Andrew Benham, who made history by discovering it and by some twist of fate made the Philippines its rightful owner? (

We owe it to the man and I don’t see therefore the importance or significance of changing names now or at any other time in the future. Benham Rise is already part of our history and we could not be more fortunate that it belongs to the Philippines.

If changing Benham Rise to Philippine Rise is “to emphasize Philippine sovereignty rights and jurisdiction over the area”, as claimed, how much absurd can we get!

Is the Duterte government directing this stand against China, as if warning the hegemonic giant country to stay away from his part of the country’s territory facing the Pacific Ocean as it has no right whatsoever claiming this part of our sovereignty, as it blatantly did at the South China Sea side of the Philippines?

That is really wishful thinking and that is what I mean.

Whether it is Benham Rise or Philippine Rise, to China it is the same banana for their picking.

China is so deep inside us now both in land and maritime affairs that driving them out of the country and its maritime territorial limits is next to impossible. Doing this can be interpreted as declaring war and this to us can be likened to a suicidal act which we don’t really want to happened.

It’s the familiar sense of déjà vu we are seeing and feeling at Benham Rise.

In the same manner that China showed no respect at UNCLOS when it made reefs into militarized islands even at our own backyards at the South China Sea, this time at Benham Rise, China also showed nothing but insolence even as UNCLOS approved the submission of the Philippines in 2009 with respect to the limits of its continental shelf in the Benham Rise region, saying, “But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory”. End of controversy.

It is hard to imagine now the Philippines exploring and developing its own natural resources in and under the sea without China having a part, nay, a greater part of it.

It is bad enough that we are poor and powerless, but it is even worse that President Duterte seemed to have consigned ours and the country’s future and fate to China.

What a lamentable prospect!



Benham Rise issue – Part III


I have no choice but to designate this article as Part III since I have already written about Benham Rise twice some years back which you can read at this links:

Never had I anticipated writing about it again until I heard the recent alarming and disturbing news that a Chinese survey ship was spotted at the Benham Rise location.

“We are concerned about the presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations as part of the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement on Friday, March 10.

“The Department of National Defense has already notified the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding this matter as we continue to assert our sovereignty over our territory,” he added.

Of course we should, forcefully and explicitly!

The Benham Rise area definitely does not have any stupid Chinese historical claim of any sort like they had been asserting they have at the West Philippine Sea just because it is part of the larger body of water bearing the name South China Sea (SCS).

On the pretext that China was “looking for a place to put submarine”, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said was the info he got, the most likely reason would be that they have chosen the area for their oceanographic research because they just want to confirm if indeed the unimaginable wealth and extent in mineral resources and gas deposits found underneath Benham Rise truly exist.

I cannot blame President Rodrigo Duterte for pussyfooting with the Chinese in the West Philippine Sea issue, where even the country’s territorial integrity has been breached with China’s nine- dash line claim.

If the most powerful country and the acclaimed top ‘policeman’ in the world- the US, and the UN, through its agency the UNCLOS, were not able to stop China from expanding and militarizing the SCS, who are we to prevent China’s hegemony of the contested areas?

But what I am just saying here is that we had been hearing Duterte declaring time and again that he will die defending the country and the Filipino people from the enemies that will try to destroy them.

Well this is it!

There has not been and there will never be a greater challenge such as this one in Duterte’s presidency that needs more of his grit, determination and resolve to stand up for his country and people.

Duterte could not afford anymore to be complacent the way he has been pleased and gratified at the financial and technical help China has promised to give for many infrastructure projects for the country.

China may have bamboozled us in the SCS and there was nothing that we can do. In that part of the globe what is China’s is China’s and what is ours is still China’s.

Duterte and those that will follow him should be reminded that at Benham Rise what legally belongs to the Philippines is for the Filipinos and for the generations of Filipinos to come and not to China or any other exploitative country that intends to not only hold us by the balls, but stick it to us as well.


Thank God for Benham Rise – Part II


Benham Rise is 2,000 to 5,000 meters deep

The first part was written on August 16, 2011 with the title ‘Philippines pin hopes on Benham Rise’.

After submitting and defending a claim before the UN commission in 2008 for the 13-million hectare area off the coast of Aurora in Luzon, by virtue of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea’s (UNCLOS) definition of 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, a reply from the UN was received asking the government to answer some questions before formally approving our claim through a resolution intended to be passed in 2012.

Perhaps the defense was articulately argued and the answers to the questions, convincing, that it made Benham Rise the Philippines’ first successful validation of a territorial claim under UNCLOS.

Finally, Benham Rise is legally ours! Thank God for Benham Rise!

Fortunately, unlike Scarborough Shoal or the Panatag Shoal and other portions of the South China Sea, no other country claims the area that is almost a quarter bigger than the 10.5-million hectare Luzon.

UNCLOS, incidentally, is the same UN convention the Philippines is invoking in its ongoing dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal.

“We own Benham Rise now. This is for future Filipinos,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said.

Indeed it is. I may never see it explored and developed in my generation, but it feels good heading towards the sunset years of my life that the succeeding generations faces a brighter future.

According to experts Benham Rise keeps a large amount of heavy metals like manganese, whose accumulation into manganese nodules can help in the production of steel, among other things.

Considering the area is a seabed, which is known to contain gas hydrates, Benham Rise is also potentially a rich source of natural gas, according to them.

What I can only hope and pray is that, from here on, we shall continue having leaders and public servants who has the interest of the nation and the welfare of the people over and above their own hidden personal and political agendas.


Philippines pin hopes on Benham Rise


Benham Rise off the Eastern coast

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.