Saturday, February 23, 2013

Benham Rise: PH's new territory approved by United Nations

Benham rise is an area bigger than the Philippines' biggest island, Luzon, that potentially contains steel-producing minerals and natural gas for domestic consumption or exportation.

This is Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare area off the coast of Aurora province, which the United Nations (UN) recently confirmed as part of the Philippines' continental shelf and territory.

Unlike Scarborough Shoal and other portions of the South China Sea, no other country claims the area that is almost a quarter bigger than the 10.5-million hectare Luzon.

The UN approval means Benham Rise, an underwater plateau by definition, is an extension of the Philippines' continental shelf, an area rich in living and non-living resources like minerals and gas.

Based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the continental shelf comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas 200 nautical miles (NM), or 370 kilometers, from a State's baselines or “edges.” Parts of the continental shelf that are not covered by the 200 NM provision, according to Unclos, need to be claimed and defended before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS).

The UNCLCS approved Benham Rise as the Philippines' extended continental shelf 3 years after the country filed a claim and defended it before the UN commission. (The UNCLCS was formed under UNCLOS.

It is now up to the Philippines to enact a law or executive order establishing the boundaries of its continental shelf, marine law expert Jay Batongbacal told Rappler.

More resources

With this, he said, the Philippines can explore and exploit resources in a bigger area of seabed.

“The larger your shelf, the larger your potential resources are,” explained Batongbacal, a University of the Philippines professor who took part in the technical team that prepared and defended the Philippines' claim over Benham Rise.

Batongbacal said based on two initial samplings in the area, Benham Rise keeps a large amount of heavy metals like manganese, whose accumulation into manganese nodules can help in the production of steel, among other things.

Considering the area is a seabed, which is known to contain gas hydrates, Benham Rise is also potentially a rich source of natural gas, he said.

He noted, however, that Benham Rise – which is 2,000 to 5,000 meters deep – “has not really been explored.”

In an earlier interview, Paje trumpeted the region's oil-rich potential. “We've been saying this in the past. This country can provide for its own energy,” the secretary said.

He added it can also open opportunities for the Philippines to export natural gas.

This is the Philippines' first successful validation of a territorial claim under Unclos, according to a paper on Benham Rise prepared by parties privy to the claim.

UNCLOS , incidentally, is the same UN convention the Philippines is invoking in its ongoing dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal. (Read: Scarborough Shoal according to Manila, Beijing.)

Regarding Scarborough Shoal, China has repeatedly rejected the Philippines' invitation to bring the two countries' dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, another body formed under Unclos.

Ref :,-bigger-than-luzon

UN approves PH territorial claim to Benham Rise

Benham Rise belongs to the Philippines.

The United Nations has approved the Philippines’ territorial claim to Benham Rise, an undersea landmass in the Pacific Ocean potentially rich in mineral and natural gas deposits, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said.

“We own Benham Rise now,” Paje said in a media interview. “This is for future Filipinos,” he added, noting that the 13-million-hectare area off the coast of Aurora province has been shown to have rich mineral deposits.

Paje said the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) sent the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) a letter last week informing the agency that the landmass is part of the country’s continental shelf and territory.

Benham Rise, a seismically active region facing Luzon’s eastern seaboard, is rising slowly to the surface of the Pacific Ocean, Paje said. Perhaps, in a million years—a blink in the planet’s geological time—it will be habitable, he said.

Larger than Luzon

The plateau is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, and is within coordinates 119°30’E to 132°00’E and 12°10’N to 20°30’N latitude.

Paje said Benham Rise, named after an American surveyor, is larger in area than Luzon. It has been shown to have natural gas deposits and manganese nodules, vital in the production of steel, he added.

Despite Benham’s proximity to the Philippines and its location within the country’s exclusive economic zone, the government did not claim it until 2008. Then, the next year, the government submitted a formal claim to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Philippine submission noted that the country reserves the right to submit further claims in the area.

The Philippines is the sole claimant of Benham Rise. The country is currently embroiled in territorial disputes over several islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

China and the Philippines are feuding over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, 220 kilometers (124 nautical miles) west of Zambales province.

The Philippines and some of its Southeast Asian neighbors are also disputing with China and Taiwan ownership of parts of Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

The Spratlys are believed to be sitting on vast deposits of minerals and natural gas, in an area spanned by sea lanes vital to global trade.


BENHAM RISE is a 13-million-hectare undersea region that lies east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora.

Also known as Benham Plateau, it is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, and is described in a study as a thickened portion of the Philippine sea plate’s oceanic crust.

The formation lies within the continental shelf of the Philippines as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), under which a coastal state’s exclusive economic zone extends 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from its continental shelf, while its extended continental shelf extends for another 278 km (150 nautical miles).

Benham Rise is not subject to any maritime boundary disputes and claims.

Studies conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have indicated large deposits of methane in solid form in the area.

In August last year, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje announced that the Philippines will gain additional territory should the United Nations approve the country’s claim to Benham, which the country submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York on April 8, 2009.

According to Paje, an American geologist, Andrew Benham, discovered the area, which was between 40 meters and 2,000 meters below the waterline, in 1933. Paje said gas deposits in the area would enable the country to achieve energy sufficiency. Source: Inquirer Archives

Other related website :

Benham Plateau

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