Walang bearing! Atienza belittles China’s naming of features in Benham Rise
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza belittled Beijing’s move to assign Chinese names to five seamounts in Benham Rise, which Manila called as Philippine Rise.
The politiko said China’s act does not have any impact on the Philippines’ sovereign rights over seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge.
“Those Chinese labels will not diminish the fact that under international law, Benham is part of the Philippine continental shelf. And all the natural resources found in the waters, seabed and subsoil of Benham belong to the Philippines and form part of our national wealth,” Atienza stressed.
Following China’s move, the politiko urged the Philippine government to also give Filipino names to every seamount in Benham.
Atienza recalled that during his stint as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, he had Benham surveyed by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) between 2007 and 2008, in connection with the Philippine government’s submission to the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Atienza said the Philippine government was then required to tender for approval the particulars of the outer limits of the Philippine continental shelf.
“We had a May 2009 deadline to present the outer perimeters of the Philippine continental shelf before the UN, along with supporting scientific and technical data,” Atienza said.
“And when the Philippine government under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo finally submitted the limits of our continental shelf, we made it a point to include Benham as within our limits,” he added.
“Mrs. Arroyo was aware of our decision to include Benham as inside our limits, because we elevated the matter to her, and she instantly approved it,” he further said.
Unlike the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, Atienza said no other state was claiming Benham at that time, so the Philippine government’s submission was eventually approved by the UN on April 12, 2012 – long after a new administration had taken over.
With the UN approval, Atienza said the Philippines now enjoys the exclusive right to exploit all living as well as non-living resources inside Benham.