A composite survey team of Filipino scientists is currently conducting the first ever benthic survey (a survey of the ecological region of the sea) in Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare new Philippine territory that is awarded by United Nations two years ago.
The team is composed of researchers and volunteers from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic ResourcesUP 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. It is led by Dr. Hildie Nacorda of University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute (MSI).
The team’s expedition is hoped to lay the foundation for more research programs and exploration in the new territory, according to a source from UP. The exploration is expected to last at least two weeks.
Benham Rise, an undersea plateau that is almost 25% larger than the 10.5 million hectare Luzon, is recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012 as part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory. It is believed to be rich in steel-producing minerals and natural gas.
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, in an interview two years ago, announced the area’s oil-rich potential. He said the country could achieve energy sufficiency because of the gas deposits in the region.
“We’ve been saying this in the past. This country can provide for its own energy. We own Benham Rise now. This is for future Filipinos,” he said.
The Philippines is the sole claimant to the territory. The claim was submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York on April 8, 2009.
Law Professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, is a member of the team who prepared the Philippine claim to the Benham Rise. He said initial samplings have shown Benham Rise to have natural gas deposits and manganese nodules, vital in the production of steel. He added the area has been largely unexplored.
Benham Rise was discovered by Andrew Benham, an American geologist, in 1933.