amended chart and relevant information, including geodetic data, concerning an amendment to a chart deposited by the Philippines on 2 July 2012 changing the name “Benham Rise” to “Philippine Rise”, as contained in Executive Order No. 25 Changing the Name of “Benham Rise to Philippine Rise” and for Other Purposes of 16 May 2017.
The Benham Rise, also known as the Philippine Rise, is an extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 kilometers (160 mi) east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela. The rise has been known to the people of Catanduanes as Kalipung-awan as early as the precolonial era of the Philippines, which literally means “loneliness from an isolated place”.
Under the Philippine Sea lie a number of basins including the West Philippine Sea Basin, inside of which is located the Central Basin Fault (CBF). The Benham Plateau is located in the CBF and its basement probably is a micro-continent. Several scientific surveys have been made on the feature to study its nature and its impact on tectonic subduction, including one about its effects on the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The Philippines claimed this feature as part of its continental shelf in a claim filed with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 8, 2009, and which was approved under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012.
The rise is designated as a “protected food supply exclusive zone” by the Philippine government since May 2017. Mining and oil exploration are banned in the Benham Plateau as it is a protected area. On May 16, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25, renaming the feature to “Philippine Rise”.
United Nations recognition of the Philippine claim
Despite its proximity to the archipelago, the plateau was previously not included in the territory of the Philippines. On April 8, 2009, the Republic of the Philippines lodged a partial territorial waters claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in relation to the continental shelf in the region of Benham Rise.It was submitted as part of petition expanding the archipelago’s baselines and exclusive economic zone through a law that also included other claims involving disputed territories of the Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands) and Scarborough Shoal. According to the government’s claim, based on a set of guidelines by the commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the area satisfies the 350-mile constraint line since the outer limits of the continental shelf are located landward of the constraint line, which is located 350 miles from the baselines where the measurement of the breadth of the territorial sea begins.
The Congress of the Philippines enacted the bill of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, now known as Republic Act No. 9522, or the Archipelagic Baselines Law, which is the basis of the claim. According to the document the region is bounded by the Philippine Basin on the north and east, and by Luzon on the west and south. It asserted that, according to scientific data based on seismic, magnetic, other geological features, the Benham Rise is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. In summary, the baselines, the basis used for delineating the maritime territorial and jurisdictional zones (including the continental shelf), conform with the requirements of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The claim is only a partial claim since the law that allows the Philippines to expand its territorial boundaries also includes islands in the South China Sea.
The Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. The UN officially approved the claim in April 2012, the first claim of the Philippines approved by an international body since the colonial era.
After Chinese survey ships were spotted in the region in 2017, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte suggested that the plateau be renamed to emphasize the Philippine’s sovereignty over the area. Soon after, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced plans to come up with a new name. In May 2017, the Philippine government officially adopted the name “Philippine Rise” for the feature and designated the area as a “protected food supply exclusive zone” and prohibited mining and oil exploration in the Benham Plateau, angering China in the process. China maintained that the Philippines has no sovereign rights or sovereignty over the Benham Rise despite a UN-backed international ruling in 2012 that says otherwise.