Monday, March 13, 2017

Things That You Need To Know About Benham Rise

This new part of the so-called Philippine Continental Shelf is promising where it's hidden riches will help the country's economy to improve very significantly where lives will get any better. However, with present encroachments and international law technicalities, it is at best to know about the nature of how laws observed and actions with suspicion seen as a possible threat to the national security.


HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
Via philnews.ph
The Benham Rise, being a submerged volcanic ridge within the Philippine Sea plate, was discovered by American Surveyors and was named after Admiral Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham. In 2009, the Philippines lay the claim in Benham Rise for partial territorial waters claim through the United Nations Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelf in which the main purpose is to expand its territorial baseline and exclusive economic zone (which includes Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan island group) as per the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law which was also enacted on that year. Apparently, the said law was used as the basis for the claim wherein upon examining the underwater geography of the area through its location lying east of Luzon and west of Philippine Basin as well as the seismic and the other geological features lie in this claim where it really conforms to the requirements given by the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS). It was then in April 2012 around three years later that the claim was awarded to the Philippines where it gives more validation for confirming that the Benham Rise is a continental shelf part of the Philippines.

CURRENT EVENTS
A Chinese Navy Type 636A Survey Vessel
Recent news shows up that the Chinese have their survey ship wandering in the Benham Rise apparently where it was discovered through the satellite photos provided by the allies. It was also reported then that a survey ship lurked in the area for around three months with the possible intention of seeking for submarine shelters wherein one may see it as a strategic zone accessing the large body of water which is the Pacific Ocean. In this sense, it seems to be a national security concern considering that Benham Rise, being in the other side of the Philippines where it is far away from China or any of the key flashpoints of the West Philippine Sea, is still being lurked by a Survey Vessel which by technicalities made by UNCLOS is deemed valid. How could that be? It is a national security concern where the said vessel is suspicious in its actions yet by international law they were treated as they acted accordingly? This is how UNCLOS guidelines sets in.

UNCLOS INTERPRETATION
A guide for archipelagic baselines. Via Asian Maritime Reviews
Accordingly, the Chinese' actions are justified through innocent passage wherein they are outside the usual 12nm territorial waters and within 200nm EEZ which in terms of Freedom of Navigation, is considered as territorial waters for that matter where ships freely pass the area without intrusions.

With that, let us take the perspective of UNCLOS. As for the Benham Rise, it is considered as a continental shelf of the Philippines. Apparently, article 76 of UNCLOS refers to the definition of "continental shelf" in the sense as to how it is interpreted through the eyes of the international law. Moreover, the article 77 further reiterates about the role of a coastal state or an archipelagic one for that matter like the Philippines wherein it clearly states that the said state having exercising its rights over its continental shelf shall not infringe or result in any unjustifiable interference with navigation and other rights and freedoms of other states as provided for in this Convention. Speaking of which, it justifies for the fact that albeit the considerations for Benham Rise being a submerged feature belonging to the Philippines, the said country shall not fully enforce any maritime violations against like for instance, the survey ship of China wherein as for the statements the Chinese Foreign Ministry have, is been there under the rule of innocent passage. However, it will be a different scenario for the Philippines if the said country like China for example, drills for Natural Gas in the area where it is in direct violation from UNCLOS in the sense that resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone or in the Continental Shelf like Benham Rise for that matter is reserved for the Philippines to use. That is, in the sense that there are no permission had made which is sufficient enough for the Philippines to justify its actions in order to defend the country and its national interest.

The articles in the UNCLOS convention agreements set a bar for each nations to follow especially the Republic of the Philippines. For that matter, the national interest in the Exclusive Economic Zone or Continental Shelf shall be deemed in accordance to the international law wherein things will be gone orderly. In this sense, the guidelines and its interpretations are so clear about the exercises of rights and privileges, as well as the limits for that matter.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT'S COURSE OF ACTION
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (Via ABS-CBN News)
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the actions the Chinese survey ship have in the area is indeed worrying in the sense that it threatens the national security of the nation. Moreover, the actions made by the Chinese, albeit the conditions qualifying it as an innocent passage by UNCLOS, is not really seen as such as what the SecDef Lorenzana explicate considering that the said ship was loitering there for weeks or apparently for three months. Speaking of which, the Chinese explanation at this point of view is not really not that convincing given the Chinese's long record of deception starting from their incursions of the Mischief Reef in the mid 90s. The palace being alarmed on the situation and as it gets a bit worrying, the government muls to increase patrols with the use of coast guard vessels as well as building structures in the area where the latter may be seen as difficult to obtain considering that the sea it is situated is too deep to put up a structure unlike those in the West Philippine Sea where shallow features exist. In simplifying this matter, it may be seen as a good news for the matter that the government is aware for that matter and will definitely do necessary actions to ensure the safety of the country as well as securing its national interest especially on Benham Rise where it is considered rich of natural resources that may benefit the economy of the country once exploited in due time.

A PROMISING CONCLUSION
BRP Gregorio Velasquez (ex-Melville), a survey ship of the Philippine Navy
which is a gift from the US.
Given the situation in Benham Rise, it may be seen as an incursion made by the Chinese that made things alarming but in accordance to the international law, it may be seen as a valid move considering that UNCLOS implies the Exclusive Economic Zone as international waters where any vessels are free navigate which is also considered as innocent passage. However, the suspicion about the loitering of the ship (which is different from passage) makes it worrying to the government especially the defense department that prompts them to seek an explanation of the Chinese Government on the matter where in return, they said that the Philippines cannot claim Benham Rise as its territory, which holds some truth in it since it only pertains to continental shelf as per the article 76/77 of the UNCLOS rules. But that does not convince the government where in return the Philippines are seeking to increase patrols in the area as well as looking for more plans to assert its stance in the area by mere presence. Speaking of which, it may serve as a driving force for the Department of National Defense to further enhance the so-called Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) not only on Benham Rise but as well on the more complicated disputes of the West Philippine Sea. In this the country will not only defend its very existence against foreign and domestic adversaries but also to assert its national interest where it may be find the best in a sense that each and every citizen will benefit as such interest will make lives better.

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UPDATES

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) conducted patrols in the Benham Rise in which it is seen as a good move from the Philippine Navy considering that deploying it in the area is to be seen as a show of flag or rather, a good presence wherein that it gives the sign that this part of waters is under the Philippines' national interest as well as being within its sovereign rights as a nation to exploit its rich, natural resources.



In this case, it is deemed as promising that in matters like this, as the Philippine Navy still lacks ships to do its mandate and still in the process of improving its fleet, they are still patrolling the Benham Rise with only one ship capable of staying there for a month as well as capable to take in the large waves of the Pacific Ocean. These in which gives hope as well as an idea to further enhance the Modernization Program as in this case through Sail Plan 2020 where national interest will be much secured than ever and it will be nothing to worry about on the part of its citizens of the republic.

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