THE House Committee on Foreign Affairs has endorsed for plenary approval a measure urging Congress to allocate P100 million for the exploration and survey mapping of Benham Rise.
House Resolution (HR) 45, authored by Rep. Deogracias Victor B. Savellano of of the First 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.
“An amount not lower than P100 million will be spent for the survey and exploration of the region, which measure shall be of immense interest for the development of the country,” the resolution said.
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.
Scientific data on seismic, magnetic and other geological features of Benham Rise indicate the region is an extension of the country’s continental shelf. The plateau is bigger than Luzon, almost half the country’s total land area.
The resolution also seeks to rename the region “Philippine Northeast Continental Shelf” to mark the proprietary right of the country over the area.
The resolution directs the departments of Science, Energy, Environment, Agriculture and other government agencies the task of implementing the necessary measures and related activities for the survey mapping of Benham Rise.
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 nautical mile exclusive economic zone from archipelagic baseline.
“A full territorial claim was lodged with the 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,” the resolution said.
It said scientific surveys and initial marine exploration conducted after the July 16, 1990, earthquake showed 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,” HR 45 said.
It said 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.
With the significant increase to Philippine territory and resources, the resolution added the existing Philippine marine map should be amended accordingly.