Monday, 22 August 2011
Philippines stands to increase continental shelf through Benham Rise claim
The Philippines may gain 13 million hectares of territory should the UN approve its government's claim of the Benham Rise, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The Benham Rise is situated off the eastern coast of the Philippines and may be recognised, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as a part of its continental shelf in 2012. The Philippines is the only claimant to the Rise, a situation which represents a contrast to that off its western coast where title to the Spratly Islands remains disputed.
Given the seemingly straightforward nature of the claim, the government of the Philippines is keen to incorporate the Rise which, with its huge methane deposits, has the potential to make the Philippines a natural gas exporter. Should, under UNCLOS, Benham be determined to be a part of Philippines territory then there would be a legal basis for the government to negotiate exploration rights with private companies.
The Philippines claim was submitted to the UN under UNCLOS in 2009, and the Environment Secretary of the Philippines, Ramon Jesus Paje, has said that the UN intends to approve the claim in 2012.
Paje has said that the Philippines has only recently categorically defined the Benham Rise as attached to the continental shelf which, under UNCLOS, is the seabed and subsoil that extend beyond its 12 nautical mile territorial sea. Nevertheless, there is anticipation in the Philippines that the eventual incorporation of the Benham Rise will mark an important step towards energy self-sufficiency.