Benham Rise is a promising claim to the Philippine territory. We've gathered seven truly interesting facts about the massive underwater plateau.
1. We've had Benham Rise since 2012
Based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the continental shelf comprises the seabed and suboil of the submarine areas 200 nautical miles (NM), or 370 kilometers, from the State's baselines. According to UNCLOS, part of the continental shelf that are not covered by the 200 NM provision need to be claimed and defended before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS).
On April 8, 2001, in compliance with the requirements of UNCLOS, the Philippines lodged a partial territorial claim on the vast, largely unexplored territory with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS).
In April 2009, the Philippines went further by lodging a full territorial claim that Benham Rise was part of its continental shelf and territory.
On April 12, 2012, three years after the country filed a claim and defended it before the UN commission, the UNCLCS approved Benham Rise as the Philippines' extended continental shelf.
2. Benham Rise is larger than Luzon
Benham Rise, or Benham Plateau, with coordinates 119°3O’E to 132°OO’E and 12°1O’N to 2O°3O’N latitude, is a 13-million-hectare under sea region east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela.
On the other hand, Luzon, the largest Philippine island and 15th largest in the world, has an area of 42,457.7 square miles or roughly 11 million hectares.
If you combine Luzon, Samar and Leyte, Benham Rise is still wider.
3. Benham Rise greatly extended the Philippine Territory
Before Benham Rise was claimed in 2012, the Philippine territory covers 30 million hectares or 115,831 square miles. Imagine adding another Luzon larger than the original to Philippine territory.
With Benham Rise being part of the Philippine map, the country's territory has increased to 43 million hectares, which is 43 percent larger than the original territory.
4. There are no other claims to Benham Rise
With the UN awarding the underwater plateau, Benham Rise is not subject to any maritime boundary disputes and claims.
The Philippine claim was put in writing in Republic Act No. 9522 or the Archipelagic Baselines Law. According to the document, the region is bounded by the Philippine Basin on the north and east, and by Luzon on the west and south. It asserted that, according to scientific data based on seismic, magnetic, other geological features, Benham Rise region is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf.
5. Gas deposits in Benham Rise could provide complete energy sufficiency to the country
Initial research findings have shown that there are massive mineral and gas deposits in the plateau. In addition, solid methane was found during mapping operations. Hence, the region is believed to have vast oil deposits.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the government should exhaust means to tap Benham Rise as an an alternative for the Malampaya deepwater gas-to-power project in offshore Palawan.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said gas deposits in the area would enable the country to achieve complete energy sufficiency.
6. The Benham Rise is home to at least 200 fish species
Fisheries and algae experts, microbiologists, oceanographers, and ecologists from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), University of the Philippines (UP) and Oceana conducted a week-long expedition to Benham Rise which started on May 23, 2016. In a press release, Oceana said that “at least 200 fish species including surgeonfish, hawkfish, and damselfish, and large predators such as tiger shark were recorded along with green algae and soft sponges.”
“Benham Bank holds tremendous potential for discovering more unique species and outstanding samples of marine resources ...we foresee government and stakeholders working together to protect and sustainably manage this extraordinary natural heritage which is now part of our territory,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice President for Oceana Philippines.
7. Japan and Korea want to explore Benham Rise
Japan and Korea have expressed interest in research and exploration of Benham Rise.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is hopeful that it could undertake a vital resource mapping over Benham Rise with Japan and Korea.
According to DOST, Benham Rise has attracted the interest of Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) to collaborate on conducting the survey.
JAMSTEC would like to do a survey using its ¥6-billion submarine research project, said Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council on Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development
Photo: Phil Star | Oceana Philippines | Google Maps
Source: Benham Rise | Phil Star | Manila Bulletin | Inquirer
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