Chinese eyes on Benham Rise. Underwater landmass is rich in minerals. Proved by UN as part of the Philippines since 2012.

Benham Rise cannot be claimed by the Philippines.

PICS: wikipedia and Philnews

PICS: wikipedia and Philnews

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The age-old rivalry between the Philippines and China over ownership and rights does not seem to be dying down. The dust has not yet settled on the verdict given by ITLOS in July last year. But, there is another storm brewing up in the Philippines – China relations.

The issue is similar to the older dispute which is still unresolved in spite of the decisive verdict by the International Tribunal. But, China is incorrigible or so it seems.

It will continue to use its muscles and might to steamroller its lesser opponents.

They are also encouraged by the friendly overtures of the Filipinos and are taking them for granted. In addition, this might be a testing dose to determine the extent to which the Filipinos may be pushed.

Consequently, Senator Sonny Angara decided to rake up the issue so that the PH is prepared to tackle the issue. He exhorted the government to take up the issue at the appropriate forums before it is too late.

According to him, the Congress should take up the issue of sovereignty before it is too late.

Furthermore, he suggested that the house take it up before it is too late. Raising this issue in Congress, Senator Sonny Angara urged the government to pass a bill claiming sovereignty over Benham Rise.

Benham Rise is a physical extension of the underwater ridge that extends for 250 Km East of the Northern coastline of the Philippine Sea. It is located in the seismic active region coastline of Dinapique, Isabela.

The Benham Plateau lies in the West Philippine Sea basin’s Central basin Fault (CBF). Its study by various scientists has resulted in the conclusion that it is a part of the Philippines since it is a part of its continental shelf. Since 2012, UNCLOS, the authority on seas, recognizes it as a part of the Philippines even though it is underwater.

The underwater landmass in the Pacific Ocean is to the extent of 13 million Hectares and we should exploit it. It is rightfully ours stressed Senator Angara.

But, the wily Chinese will never let anybody rest in peace. The above reaction by the Filipino lawmakers resulted from a Chinese statement that the Philippines cannot claim sovereignty over it.

The 2012 UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf proclaimed Filipino sovereignty over the Benham Rise. The commission that works under the aegis of the UNCLOS, declared the Philippines as the owner of an extension of their continental shelf. It was therefore an integral part of the Philippines.

It therefore fell in the Filipino economic zone. However, the Chinese refuse to recognize this reasoning of the UN. The spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not agree that the plateau belonged to the Philippines UN approval notwithstanding.

Therefore, Senator Angara wanted the government to exploit the rich natural resources on the plateau. He suggested its use for a tourist destination, Marine resources and for alternative energy sources.

His proposal also included the creation of the Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA). He requested the swift adoption of the Senate bill 312 so that it could become law.

Angara decried that the Filipinos did not exploit the Rise even though 5 years had elapsed since its award. He described the Chinese claim as a foreign incursion on Filipino territory.

The Seanator pleaded for a well-planned developmental effort to extract benefits from the mineral-rich underwater landmass. Only though coordinated action can the full potential of the landmass be of use to us.

Once implemented, it will also keep away poachers like China, he said. That would require a well-drafted roadmap for deriving benefits from the mineral-rich plateau.

We are looking at promoting the Public – Private Partnership (PPP) model, he said.

Furthermore, jobs creation will also result from such projects for the local populace, he said.

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Umrao Singh
Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson
Tuesday, March 14, 2017