Gov’t urged to defend Benham Rise

MANILA — After reported Chinese intrusion in the Benham Rise, an eastern seaboard near the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, a Senator has urged the government to boost efforts to defend it.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian made this call after the Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday said that Chinese ships were monitored in recent months at locations near the Philippines. Last year, satellite imagery also tracked Chinese vessels in the area for three months.

However, Chinese Embassy denied that it intentionally sailed to Benham Rise and simply passed by international sea noting that they had the right of freedom of navigation.

“The government must take immediate action to defend our exclusive sovereignty over the Benham Rise to ensure that this potential will be developed and utilized to benefit the Filipino people,” Gatchalian said.

He said that the country is only beginning to discover the true potential of the Benham Rise to contribute to the Philippines’ ecological and economic prospects.

The neophyte senator also noted the importance of deep-sea explorations to determine the potential of the Benham Rise as an energy source, noting reports that it has vast natural gas deposits and mineral resources, like manganese.

Earlier the week, the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Gatchalian, expressed support for the creation of a multi-agency authority to develop a long-term policy framework to manage the Benham Rise.

There is currently a bill that seeks the creation of a Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA) to spearhead intensive scientific research and exploration in Benham Rise, identify its economic potential, and take the lead in formulating and implementing a development roadmap aligned with the country’s Philippine Development Plan.

The measure, SBN 312, which is authored by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, seeks to make the BRDA an attached agency of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).