Protect Benham Rise at all times —Atienza

Published October 18, 2020, 4:00 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Protect Benham Rise (Philippine Rise) at all times.

This was the call made by Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, as he cheered at the Department of National Defense’s (DND) planned deployment of a fixed surveillance radar to provide “optimal airspace monitoring” over Benham Rise.

Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza (FACEBOOK / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We are counting on the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to protect Benham at all times,” the partylist lawmaker said in a statement.

“We have to safeguard the rich natural resources of Benham for the enjoyment of future generations of Filipinos.”

He took note of the DND’s decision to position over Benham one of the three long-range surveillance radar systems that the Philippine Air Force recently acquired from Japan.

“This should help us enforce our exclusive rights over Benham,” Atienza said.

In a congressional probe, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had attributed Beijng’s survey of the Philippine Rise in 2017 without any permit from the Philippine government to Manila’s lack of capability to detect illegal entry.

“We must stress that nobody can explore Benham without the express consent of the Philippine government,” Atienza said.

“And only the Philippine government may authorize and regulate offshore drilling in Benham for all purposes,” he added.

In 2012, the United Nations awarded Benham to the Philippines as an extension of its continental shelf after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), under the leadership of Atienza as its secretary, had Benham surveyed and delineated to support the Philippine government’s claim that the 13-million-hectare underwater region located north east of Luzon is within the outer limits of the country’s continental shelf.

Atienza noted that under international law, a coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.

A portion of Benham is a designated marine resource reserve, he said.