Six days after the Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare area off the coast of Aurora province, was announced in news reports as officially part of the Philippine territory through a United Nation’s approval, a team of scientists from the University of the Philippines set sail to conduct surveys of the 13-million-hectare area off the coast of Aurora province, which is deemed to be rich in mineral deposits.
The vast landmass, or an underwater plateau by definition, was approved by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory.
The UP team of scientists, led by Dr. Hildie Nacorda of UP Diliman’s Marine Science Institute, left Manila on May 3 by boarding Philippine research vessel– BFAR’s research vessel M/V DA-BFAR. They are expected to take at least two weeks to conduct the surveys, the results of which will lay the foundation for more research programs and exploration in the area.
The cruise also represents the first ever benthic survey–or a survey of the lowest ecological region of the sea–of Benham Rise.
A marine expert reported initial samplings from the undersea plateau point to a rich source of manganese and natural gas; but the area larger than the island of Luzon has largely been unexplored.
The marine expert, Prof. Jay Batongbacal, also from UP, took part in the technical team that prepared and defended the Philippines’ claim over Benham Rise.
The team members come from the MSI, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the UP Los Baños (UPLB) School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) and Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS), UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, and Xavier University. Students from Ateneo de Manila University and MSI are also on board as volunteers.
On April 12, 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) adopted in full the Philippines’ submission for an extended continental shelf (ECS) in the Benham Rise region. This grants Philippine sovereignty to 135,506 square kilometers of the Benham Rise Extended Continental Shelf. The approval came three years after the country filed a claim and defended it before the UN commission.
Subsequently, a program to initiate scientific research and exploration in the Benham Rise was approved by the Department of Science and Technology in December 2013. This was to be implemented by the MSI, the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) also of UPD, the and SESAM.
The underwater plateau, whose highest points are 35 meters below sea level, was named after the American geologist Andrew Benham who discovered the continental shelf. The area was mapped in 1933 but its connection to the Philippine shelf was validated only recently to justify the county’s economic claim.
Updates of the new research cruise are available at https://twitter.com/msi_cruise.
(Source of story taken here.)