PCG willing to include Benham Rise in routine patrol

by Evelyn Macairan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 22 2014 12:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 22 2014 08:02 PM

MANILA - The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is willing to include in their routine patrol Benham Rise, which was recently declared by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as belonging to the Philippines.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo yesterday said their Northern Luzon District (NLD) would take charge of patrolling Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau.

Benham Rise covers around 13 million hectares east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela. It reportedly has untapped mineral and gas deposits.

However, Balilo said before they could send a patrol ship to the area, they must gain the approval of the National Security Council (NSC).

Based on the instruction of PCG commandant Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, all their actions on Benham Rise must first be approved by the NSC.

While the UN has declared Benham Rise as an extended continental shelf of the country, the Coast Guard is still cautious in sending their personnel or ship to the area, or have their Islander plane fly over.

“Even if it has been declared by the UN, we still need to seek guidance from the NSC. It is a territory that is outside our regular deployment,” Balilo said.

He said at the moment, even if they would get NSC approval, it would be difficult for their ships to sail to the Benham Rise because of the rough seas. So far, there had been no reports of any poachers in the area.