UP scientists explore Benham Rise
A team led by scientists from the University of the Philippines arrived Tuesday in Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare area off eastern Luzon, which the Philippines officially acquired in 2012.
“First transect south of Benham Bank. Relatively calm seas,“ the team, led by Hildie Nacorda of the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI), said in a Twitter post upon arrival in the area.
“This cruise represents the first ever benthic survey to be conducted in the area,” added the team, referring to the survey of the lowest ecological region of the sea.
The team is composed of researchers from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, UP Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) and Institute of Biological Sciences, UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, Xavier University and Ateneo de Manila University.
They left Manila on Saturday and went to the area on board a BFAR research vessel.
The survey will last at least two weeks and is expected to lay the foundation for further exploration of the area.
In an update yesterday, the team said they conducted a dive and obtained “fascinating videos.”
Benham Rise is a 135,506-square kilometer undersea plateau located in the Philippine continental shelf.
The Philippines lodged a claim of the area before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2009.
Last year, the commission granted the country’s submission for an extended continental shelf.
Law professor and director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Jay Batongbacal, a member of the technical team who prepared the Philippine claim, earlier said initial samplings from the undersea plateau point to a rich source of manganese and natural gas.
Upon approval of the UN commission, the UP-MSI did the first oceanographic survey of the area.
Last December, the Department of Science and Technology approved a program to initiate scientific research and exploration of the plateau. The program was to be implemented by MSI, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and the SESAM. By Janvic Mateo, The Philippine Star