- BFAR officials and scientists will be sailing to Benham Rise this week
- DA chief Manny Piñol said they will study if floating structures can be built to serve as rest and refuge area for scientists and fishermen
- Piñol will be leading the exploration team himself
MANILA, Philippines – Officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Filipinos scientists will be sailing to Benham Rise this week. This was revealed by no less than DA Secretary Manny Piñol in a Facebook post.
Piñol said he will lead the exploration team which also includes Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona of BFAR and a number of scientists.
The group will be traveling to Benham Rise on Wednesday onboard the government-owned Oceanographic Research vessel MV DA-BFAR and at least three smaller DA-BFAR patrol vessels called the MCS.
The team will also be joined by fishermen who will be using the 10 Fiberglass Fishing Boats measuring 38-feet with two engines with a weight of 4.5 tons equipped with a fish box which could be filled with ice, according to Piñol.
“The flotilla will proceed to the shallow portion of the Ridge where the depth is only about 70 feet and anchor “Payaos” or fish sheds where the fishermen could catch fish using hand lines,” said the DA chief.
“The BFAR officials and scientists will also study whether it is viable to set up floating structures to serve as rest and refuge area for fishermen and scientists,” he added.
Benham Rise is a 13-million hectare submerged region, rising 2,000 kilometers above the sea floor, located approximately 250 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Isabela.
After the Philippines filed its claim over the region, the UN has officially recognized Benham Rise as part of the country’s continental shelf. No country has ever laid claim to Benham Rise except the Philippines.
It is widely believed to be very rich in gas, minerals and other natural resources and has now become the latest subject of diplomatic tension between China and the Philippines.