MANILA -– Sen. Grace Poe is urging the government to start exploring the “Benham Rise” as possible source of natural gas to reduce the country’s independence to imported oil and gas products.
Poe made this appeal as she filed Senate Resolution 707 urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute (MSI) to conduct research studies, exploration and development approaches on the 13-million hectare underwater territory off eastern Luzon.
”It is time for the government to maximize and explore the Benham Rise to reduce the country’s dependence to imported oil and gas products and conduct studies that could potentially turn the Philippines into a natural gas exporter,” she said.
Poe also asked the DFA and the UP-MSI to submit to the Senate relevant recommendations in aid of legislation.
”Initial studies have not commenced, information about the Benham Rise are still lacking and the area is largely unexplored,” she said.
The Benham Rise is underwater region off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela and was named after its American surveyor Andrew Benham.
It was mapped in 1993 but its connection to the Philippine shelf was validated only on April 12, 2012 by the UN’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Last May 3, a group of 28 Filipino researchers and divers conquered the Benham Bank, the plateau’s shallowest portion which is 50 meters deep.
The Benham Rise’ undersea plateau is actually bigger than Luzon and said to have huge deposits of solid nodules of methane and that could potentially turn the Philippines into a natural gas exporter, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje told a Senate hearing in 2011.