MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise, stressing the country’s sovereign rights over the 13-million hectare undersea land mass east of Luzon.
Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 25 last May 16, stating that Philippine Rise “is located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as well as the outer limits of the continental shelf, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued on 12 April 2012.”
Duterte said in the EO that from now on, Benham Rise would be referred to as Philippine Rise in local and international maps and charts, particularly those produced by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority. He also ordered all government bodies to use Philippine Rise in all official documents referring to Benham Rise.
The chief executive likewise instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs to notify concerned international organizations of the change in the name of the seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located 250 kilometers east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.
Philippine Rise contains vast undersea deposits of minerals like nickel, copper, and silver, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who led a three-day expedition aboard M/V DA-BFAR early this May, said DA wanted to focus on exploring the region’s potentials for food security.
High-value catch such as tuna and tanigue thrive in the waters of Philippine Rise. Divers had also noted its thick coral cover.
The United Nations Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ claim for extended continental shelf of Benham Rise in 2012.
According to Justice Antonio Carpio, Benham Rise is not part of the Philippine territory because the country does not have sovereignty over the area.
Nevertheless, Carpio said the Philippines has sovereign rights over Benham, which means it has sole right to explore for and exploit oil, gas and other mineral resources, including sedentary species such as abalone, clams, and oysters in the area as stated under Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This also means that the Philippines’ right over Benham is exclusive and superior than that of other countries.
See the text of the EO below.