Manila, Philippines — In a bid to proclaim the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the Benham Rise, a resource-rich undersea plateau situated at the coast of Aurora, the government wants its rename it to “Philippine Rise.”
The Philippines Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said that the Foreign Affairs Department (DFA) and the Office of the Executive Secretary have been tasked to look into the possibility of renaming the said undersea plateau to to Philippine Rise, “to emphasize country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the area.”
“A motion has been made subject to the conduct of the requisite legal and logistical study to effect the change,” Abella said.
The Philippine government has expressed its concerns over the presence of Chinese surveillance vessels in Benham Rise, which the United Nations has mandated to be part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf where the country has the sole right to its natural resources.
China earlier admitted that their ships were in the area but only on innocent passage.
The Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, in a Senate hearing confirmed that those Chinese vessels lingered in Benham Rise for almost three months, saying that this “is not innocent passage.” Esperon added that the government has insufficient information to make a conclusion on Chinese activities during that stretch period.
The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly voiced out that the government shall pursue diplomatic negotiations with China over the issue, stressing that the Philippines cannot afford to go to war against the Asian titan.
The Benham Rise — which was named after United States geologist Andrew Benham who first discovered the undersea plateau dating back in 1933 — spans 13 million hectares and it is bigger than the land area of Luzon and is believed to be rich in undersea marine resources, natural gas, oil, and other minerals.
Representative Ruffy Biazon, the vice chairman of the House of Representatives’ Defense Committee, on Saturday stated that he will file a resolution to support the Malacañang Palace’s plans of renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.
Rep. Biazon said the move “is not only timely but urgently necessary,” and goes well with the Duterte’s policy of avoiding tension with the China. “The renaming is well within our rights and is non-aggressive. Let’s proceed forthwith,” Biazon added.
Biazon stressed out that there should not be any barrier to renaming the undersea plateau since no other nation has claims to the undersea territory.
In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Contintental Shelf (UNCLCS) has ruled that the Benham Rise as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the continental shelf comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas 200 nautical miles (NM), or 370 kilometers, from a state’s baselines or “edges.” — Velvetiere.