Lawmaker backs exploration of Benham Rise-A A +A
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
A LAWMAKER from Aurora province expressed support Tuesday to the government's plan to explore the natural resources at Benham Rise, an extinct volcanic ridge east of the Philippines.
"I see no reason why we should not look into the possibilities that this gift from God can offer," Aurora Representative Sonny Angara said in a statement.
Benham Rise or the Benham Plateau is a 13-million-hectare continental shelf off the coast of Aurora and Isabela that the United Nations proclaimed as part of the country's continental shelf and territory in April of this year.
The three-term lawmaker vowed to push for the swift approval of the 2013 budget of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which is currently evaluating the area's marine resources, before the House committee on appropriations when deliberations start next month.
BFAR is an attached agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA), which is primarily responsible for the development, improvement, management and conservation of the country's fisheries and aquatic resources.
The Benham Rise serves as fishing ground for deep-water fish such as blue fin tuna and is also believed to be rich in natural gas and manganese nodules.
Angara also urged Malacañang to conduct an in-depth study on the country's newly declared territory so that it can anticipate and map out a comprehensive blueprint on how to deal with the benefits it can present.
He also voiced serious concern over recent reports that a number of foreign fishermen have been "exploiting" Benham Rise even after it was declared as part of the country's undersea continental shelf.
"This may probably be an appropriate time to talk about strengthening the country's naval force. We obviously need to beef up our navy's capability to prevent incursions to our maritime territories," Angara said.
He warned of another possible "territorial standoff" with another foreign country should the government fail in aggressively protecting all our legitimate territories. The Philippines is currently locked in a territorial dispute with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal.
Malacañang earlier denied that fishermen from Taiwan and China have been taking advantage of the resources in Benham Rise. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)