March 20, 2017
Villanueva urges gov't to exert "extra effort" to protect PH's sovereign rights over Benham Rise
Senator Joel Villanueva has called on the government to exert "extra effort" at ensuring that the Philippines' sovereign rights over Benham Rise is protected.
Several reports have surfaced recently with regard to the presence of a Chinese surveillance ship in the 13-million hectare underwater plateau near Aurora.
The area is said to be a rich source of natural gas and other resources like heavy metals.
In April 2012, it was confirmed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that the Benham Rise is part of the Philippines' continental shelf. Three years after, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) also approved the Philippines' claim for the Benham Rise to be part of the country's extended continental shelf. These rulings have therefore given the Philippines sovereign rights over the area.
"We call on the government to augment their presence in the Benham Rise and to ceaselessly defend and protect our sovereign rights over our continental shelf," Villanueva said.
The senator has further heightened his call by co-authoring the bill filed by Senator Sonny Angara, Senate Bill No. 312, that establishes the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA) which seeks to "promote, coordinate and facilitate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the exploration, study and development of the Benham Rise."
If passed into law, the BRDA will be an attached agency of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and it will be tasked to lead scientific research and exploration in Benham Rise.
"We need to expedite the passage of this bill to ensure our country's presence in that area. The surveillance of Chinese ships into Philippine waters surrounding Benham Rise is alarming and we must take up the cudgels for the sake of our sovereign rights over this area," Villanueva stressed.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard is set to patrol Benham Rise in May. This would be the first time for the PCG to embark on such mission since the United Nations commission declared Benham Rise as part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
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