A SENATOR has filed a bill that seeks to develop and explore Benham Rise, also known as the Philippine Rise, for natural resources.

Senator Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” R. Marcos cited the need for an “integrated approach” in developing the waters east of northern Philippines.

The 24-million-hectare undersea feature contains untapped natural gas and heavy metals, she said in Senate Bill 2039, citing the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

The area is also rich in manganese deposits used in steel production and in the ingredients of fertilizer and ceramics, she added.

The measure will create a Philippine Rise Resource Development Authority that will enforce the country’s rights over the area, including research and exploration.

The agency will also facilitate the participation of all sectors in developing the extinct volcanic ridge in the Philippine Sea that is about 250 kilometers east of the Dinapigue, Isabela province.

The plateau had not been included in the Philippine territory even if it is near the archipelago. The Philippines in 2009 filed a partial claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for Benham Rise, which was approved three years later.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2017 issued an executive order renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas