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Timeline: Events affecting PH claim over Benham Rise

/ 12:30 AM March 19, 2017

Benham rise is a region in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 km to the east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

Following are some of the key events that have affected the Phillipines’s claim over the region.

1933 – The massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, that lies off the coastlines of Aurora and Isabela provinces, is named after American surveyor Andrew Benham during mapping.

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1982 – The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is adopted. The Philippines is the 11th country to ratify the Convention meant to establish a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans.

2001 – Benham Rise is proposed as a possible extended continental shelf (ECS) area in a workshop organized by the University of the Philippines Institute of International Legal Studies to aid the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) in implementing the Law of the Sea.  The Namria proceeded to conduct the required extensive hydrographic surveys as basis for the claim.

2007 – The Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs creates a Technical Working Group to prepare the country’s formal claims.

April 8, 2009 – The Philippines files its claim to the territory before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in New York.

August 15, 2009 – The ECS team, led by then Philippine ambassador to the UN Hilario Davide, makes its first formal presentation to the CLCS en banc.

January 2011 – A CLCS Subcomission commences the validation of  the claim but points out another method to draw the border, resulting in a larger claimed area than what the Philippines had initially submitted.

April 12, 2012 – The CLCS approves the claim, confirming the landmass as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and expanding our territory by 13 million hectares (130,000 square kilometers). The recognition of the country’s jurisdiction over Benham Rise is the first successful validation of a Philippine claim in accordance with the 1982 Unclos.  It is also the first major expansion of the country’s maritime boundaries since the late 1970s when it declared its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

July 2012 – The UP Marine Science Institute conducts the first oceanography survey of the Benham Rise.

2013 – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) starts a series of annual expeditions to Benham Rise, mainly to implement the law of the sea and to acknowledge that the area is within the country’s EEZ.

2014 – An exploratory cruise funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Development and the Department of Science and Technology is conducted. The team covers five stations in Benham Bank, the shallowest area of Benham Rise.

May 2016 – A second weeklong expedition in Benham Bank is conducted during which the team finds a rich biodiversity of impressive fields of soft and hard corals, fish, algae  and sponges. A marine scientist says the area could aid in ensuring the country’s food security.

March 9, 2017- Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says Chinese survey ships entered Philippine waters near  Benham Rise for three months last year and that there are reports indicating the Chinese were looking for possible submarine stations.

March 10, 2017 – Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang says the Philippines cannot take Benham Rise as its own territory, even as he reiterates that the reported passage of a Chinese survey ship through the Philippines’ territorial waters was innocent and unintentional.

President Rodrigo Duterte replies that he will not fight about ownership or sovereignty at this time because things are going great for the two countries.

Compiled by: Marielle Medina, Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives, DENR website, OceanA  Philippines Newsletter, United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty website

TAGS: Benham Rise, Philippine territorial rights
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