MANILA—A partylist lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Thursday filed a bill seeking to establish a commission to promote the development of Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare under sea region off the coast of Aurora.
House Bill No. 5138 authored by Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano seeks to create the Benham Rise Development Commission (BRDC) tasked to develop the underwater plateau rich in minerals and huge natural gas deposit.
The three-person commission will be set up under the Office of the President with two panels to assist the commission in performing its mandate — a National Panel of Technical Experts and an Advisory Panel.
The first panel will be composed of multi-discipline science practitioners tasked with research and development, while the second panel composed of representatives from 10 key government departments and agencies will help in the formulation of regulations and in policy making.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that Chinese survey ships have been entering the Benham Rise area since last year, noting that the intrusion was “very concerning” and that he has ordered the navy to start to confront and drive away these intruding vessels if seen in the area.
The Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise was approved by the United Nations in 2012.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang had acknowledge the 2012 ruling of the United Nations but said “it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory”.
Geng confirmed Chinese vessels for “marine research” passed through Benham Rise, but insisted this was only in exercise of the principle of “freedom of navigation” and “right to innocent passage”.