By Ellson Quismorio
“It’s called ‘Philippine Rise’ now, mind you.”
Rep. Mikee Romero, 1-PACMAN Party-List Representative, gave this reminder to Filipinos Sunday in connection with references to the controversial Benham Rise in the Pacific.
“I take this opportunity to point out that some officials, news reports and social media posts have been using the name Benham Rise in recent weeks. On May 16, 2017 President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 changing the name of the Benham Rise to the Philippine Rise,” Romero said in a statement.
“I hope the public and the media will get used on using the name Philippine Rise to refer to that extended continental shelf that is also within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in the same way that the name West Philippine Sea is being used,” the solon appealed.
Prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the EEZ refers to a zone on which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. This zone extends 200 nautical miles from the country’s territorial baseline.
The Philippine Rise–a fertile fishing ground–is a seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 160 miles east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.
In the same statement, Romero suggested to the Duterte administration the formation of an agency that would “address the issue on the exploration and EEZ gains from the Philippine Rise.”
“I, as Member of the House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources, recommend to President Duterte the creation of a corporate subsidiary of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA).
“Perhaps the state firm could be named Philippine Rise Exploration and Development Corporation. This state firm can serve as the corporate vehicle for international joint ventures and science grants,” said Romero, who is a successful businessman.
The Rise entered the consciousness of most Filipinos last year after it was visited by foreign vessels.
Recently, Chinese vessels’ seeking marine scientific research (MSR) in the area also sparked controversy. The MSR request, which covers the period January 24 to February 25, was granted by Philippine authorities.
Philippine Rise exploration agency
According to the solon, this agency could be created the same way that the Overseas Filipinos Bank was established by the Land Bank of the Philippines.
“All that is needed is a new executive order (EO) by President Duterte to set in motion all that are needed,” he said.
Romero said the EO can also create a special task force on the Philippine Rise to be jointly led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture.
“I hope the task force will include private sector representatives and experts from industry and civil society who are active in marine sciences, aquatic and marine industries, and international law,” he said.