Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza has welcomed Camp Aguinaldo’s plan to deploy a fixed surveillance radar to provide “optimal airspace monitoring” over Benham Rise (Philippine Rise).
“We understand that the Department of National Defense is positioning over Benham one of the three long-range surveillance radar systems that the Philippine Air Force recently acquired from Japan,” Atienza said.
“This should help us enforce our exclusive rights over Benham,” Atienza said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, in a previous congressional inquiry, had acknowledged that due to the government’s lack of capability to detect illegal entry, Beijing was able to survey Benham in 2017 without any permit from Manila.
“We must stress that nobody can explore Benham without the express consent of the Philippine government,” Atienza said.
“And only the Philippine government may authorize and regulate offshore drilling in Benham for all purposes,” Atienza added.
As Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources during the Arroyo administration, Atienza had Benham surveyed and delineated to support the Philippine government’s claim that the 13-million-hectare underwater region located north east of Luzon is within the outer limits of the country’s continental shelf.
As a result of the successful claim, the United Nations had in 2012 awarded Benham to the Philippines as an extension of its continental shelf.
Under international law, a coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.
“We are counting on the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to protect Benham at all times,” Atienza said.
“We have to safeguard the rich natural resources of Benham for the enjoyment of future generations of Filipinos,” Atienza said.
A portion of Benham is a designated marine resource reserve.