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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Interesting Places : The Benham Rise

With our on-going territorial dispute with China on Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands, it is a welcome relief to all Filipinos to hear that our territorial claim of Benham Rise  has been  approved by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as part of our continental shelf and territory. For  laymen like most of us,  the terms :  continental shelf and exclusive economic zone are greek to most of us. To fully understand and appreciate the significance of the approval of our territorial claim of Benham Rise as part of our continental shelf and territory, let's define these terms. Below are the definition and description of these terms :

1) Continental Shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the name continental shelf was given a legal definition as the stretch of the seabed adjacent to the shores of a particular country to which it belongs. Such shores are also known as territorial waters.

2) Exclusive Economic Zone

The exclusive economic zone of the Philippines shown in the lighter blue shade,
 with Archepelagic Waters in the darkest blue.
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind[1]. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles from its coast. In colloquial usage, the term may include the territorial sea and even the continental shelf beyond the 200-mile limit.

What and Where is the Benham Rise?
BENHAM RISE is a 13-million-hectare undersea region that lies east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. 
Also known as Benham Plateau, it is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, and is described in a study as a thickened portion of the Philippine sea plate’s oceanic crust. The formation lies within the continental shelf of the Philippines as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), under which a coastal state’s exclusive economic zone extends 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from its continental shelf, while its extended continental shelf extends for another 278 km (150 nautical miles).

Benham Rise

The Benham Rise is believed to be rich in natural gas and mineral deposits. 

The approval by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf  of Benham Rise as part of our territory  will change the existing territorial boundaries of our country and  will expand our  Exclusive Economic Zone for our maritime explorations and fishing. And hopefully, soon, this new territory will give us the "treasures" hidden in its submerged giant land mass.

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