Nation



By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral
Reporter


EO renames Benham Rise as Philippine Rise




Posted on May 23, 2017


PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed Executive Order (EO) No. 25 officially renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise -- the potentially resource-rich plateau off the east coast of Luzon island recognized by the United Nations (UN) as within the Philippines’ economic zone.

Signed on May 16, EO 25 directs the use of the name, “Philippine Rise,” in “all official documents” as well as in local and international maps when referring to the said maritime feature.

Benham Rise was named after American geologist Andrew Benham who discovered this area, according to benhamrise.com, as also cited by up.edu.ph.

The document also orders the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) -- through consultations with the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and “other relevant government agencies” -- to communicate the order to concerned international bodies.

The signing of the EO is in keeping with Mr. Duterte’s promise to change the name of Benham Rise to assert the Philippine sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area last year.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana described the presence of these Chinese ships as “very concerning,” adding the vessels “sometimes” stayed for as long as a month reportedly in search of areas to park their submarines.

In response, China dismissed Mr. Lorenzana’s report, saying their ships were “exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only.” The Philippine Navy now regularly patrols the said continental shelf.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ undisputed claim to the underwater mass.

The Philippine Rise is presumed to be rich in mineral and natural gas deposits apart from its diverse marine ecosystem.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has submitted the proposed P5-billion allocation for the Philippine Rise to fund the establishment of a research and monitoring facility at Benham Bank, a 15,000-ha area in the middle of the Rise.

The facility will serve as a “refuge” area for Coast Guard vessels and Filipino fisherfolk. It can accommodate helicopters and long-range drones deployed to monitor the area.

The proposal was a result of the Philippine Rise Expedition composed of scientists and government officials led by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on May 5 to 7 to explore what could be done to protect and conserve the resource-rich grounds.