PH plans wider claim on contested sea water

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By Alena Mae S. Flores @ http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/02/19/ph-plans-wider-claim-on-contested-sea-water/

A government agency official said on Monday that the government was planning to file a new claim with the United Nations for the country’s extended western continental shelf to strengthen its claim in the West Philippine Sea.

Energy Department undersecretary Ramon Oca said that they were helping the Environment and Natural Resources Department in preparing the data needed for the filing of the claim.

Oca said the new claim would include the extended western continental shelf beyond the 200 kilometer exclusive economic zone or EEZ, which included parts of the West Philippine sea.

“If that is approved at the UNCLOS, that means we have the exclusive right to explore and exploit the resources within the continental shelf,” Oca said.

He said the new claim is the “the second part” to be filed with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental

Shelf, the first being the government’s claim over the Benham Rise.

Oca said he could not say when the new claim will be filed, only that the department was helping prepare it.

He added that the Philippines’ claim may overlap with the areas claimed by China, Vietnam and Malaysia but said “this has to be resolved by peaceful means.”

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos announced in April last year that the Benham Rise, which was believed to be larger than the island of Luzon, was part of the country’s continental shelf and territory.

The plateau was believed to be rich in natural gas and manganese nodules.

Benham Rise sits approximately 250 kilometers east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

Unlike the Scarborough Shoal and other portions of the West Philippine Sea, no other country had staked its claims on Benham Rise, an area that is almost a quarter bigger than the 1.5 million-hectare island of Luzon.

The Unclos approved Benham Rise as an extension of the Philippine continental shelf three years after the country filed a claim and defended it before the commission, Oca said.

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