The House of Representatives has adopted House Resolution 1636, urging the executive department to allocate funds for additional scientific research and feasibility studies in the area east of Luzon, known as the Philippine Rise, including marine exploration for mineral deposits and other resources therein which may be used as alternative sources of energy.
The resolution cited the need to establish a trust fund with a seed amount of P100 million which shall be managed by the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) for additional scientific research, feasibility studies, marine exploration of the region, and acquisition of new equipment to improve the government’s research capabilities and further enhance the development strategies of the country.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines shall exercise sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the body of water extending up to 200 nautical miles from the archipelagic baselines, and the continental shelf, seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the other edge of the continental margin.
When the continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles, a coastal State is required under Article 76 of the UNCLOS to make submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) which will set out the coordinates of the outer limits of the shelf accompanied by technical and scientific data to support the claim.
The CLCS assesses the data submitted and makes recommendations. The outer limits of the continental shelf established by a coastal State based on these recommendations are final and binding.
Benham Rise, now called Philippine Rise as directed by the President under Executive Order No. 25 series of 2017, is a 13 million-hectare undersea region that lies approximately 160 nautical miles east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora.
The Philippine Rise is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock , and is described as a thickened portion of the oceanic crust of the Philippine Sea plate. Scientific data on seismic, magnetic, and other geological features of Philippine Rise indicate that the region is an extension of the country’s continental shelf.
On April 9, 2009, the Philippines lodged its claim with the CLCS that the Philippine Rise is part of the country’s extended continental shelf.
In April 2012, the CLCS officially recognized and approved the Philippines’ claim over the Philippine Rise, giving the country sovereign rights over the territory.
The resolution authored by Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano stated that scientific surveys and marine explorations showed that the Philippine Rise is rich in marine resources and massive mineral and gas deposits which can help the country achieve energy sufficiency.
vThe award of the Philippine Rise to the Philippines by the CLCS increased the areas of seabed subject to the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction, prompting the amendment of the country’s existing submarine maps which will likewise be used as the reference point by potential investors, the resolution further stated.