What is Benham Rise? Where is its exact location? How can the Filipinos benefit from it? Here are 10 things people need to know about this undersea region called Benham Rise.
1. It is also known as Benham Plateau. This 13-million- hectare, seismically active undersea region is said to be located east of Luzon, and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela. It is said to be wider than Luzon, Samar and Leyte combined.
2. Benham Rise was named after Andrew Benham, an American geologist who discovered it.
3. Despite Benham Rise’s proximity to the Philippine archipelago and despite the Philippines being the only country within 200 nautical miles of the plateau, it was not included in the Philippine islands territory before.
As such, in April 2009, the Philippines lodged a full territorial waters claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The Philippine government’s claim was based on the guidelines set by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the area satisfies the 350-mile constraint line. Moreover, the basis of the claim was also according to Republic Act No. 9522 (Archipelagic Baselines Law), which says that the region is bounded by the Philippine Basis on the north and east, and by Luzon on the west and south. Also, based on scientific data on seismic, magnetic and other geological features of Benham Rise, it indicates that the region is an extension of the country’s continental shelf.
4. In April 2012, the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recognized and officially approved the Philippines’ claim that Benham Rise is part of its continental shelf and territory. With that, the Philippines’ territory has also increased to 43 million hectares from 30 million hectares.
5. Aside from expansion of territory, the Philippines will benefit from mineral and gas deposits in Benham Rise.
According to research, there is a massive mineral and gas deposits in the plateau, and this could help the country to achieve energy sufficiency.
Furthermore, solidified methane was found during mapping activities. That is why Benham Rise is believed to have massive oil deposits.
6. The government is exploring the possibility of tapping new gas fields like the Benham Rise. Senator Juan Edgardo Angara believes that the plateau is a good alternative for the Malampaya gas field.
7. A team of Filipino experts conducted an exploration from May 3 to 18 and examined the marine life in the plateau. Fishing activities have occurred in Benham Rise even before the Philippines was officially awarded its territorial claim.
The exploration was a collaboration among University of the Philippines Diliman, UP Los Banos and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR).
Researchers, scientists, seasoned dive specialists from UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, Xavier University, Ateneo de Manila University as well as from the local diving industry have joined forces for this expedition.
The team discovered 120 percent coral cover. The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) said the plateau is a shallow bathymetric feature that towers above the adjacent deep ocean floor with Benham Bank, the shallowest part that measures 50 meters deep.
8. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources and Development (PCAARRD), an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has funded a program called “Exploration, Mapping and Assessment of Deep Water Areas.”
This aims to learn the dynamics of Benham Rise, and also to generate benchmark data as basis for the government to proactively manage its territory.
The program was implemented by the UP Marine Science Institute, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and UPLB–School of Environmental Science and Management.
9. Experts from Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) have expressed interest in conducting research surveys on Benham Rise.
As of Feb. 22, the DOST said there is no “offer” to collaborate with the agency, but an opportunity to partner with the two countries for research and development purposes which may include resource assessment.
10. By using their scientific expertise and exploring the Benham Rise, both Korea and Japan would understand better their areas that are prone to earthquake. Both countries would like to gain valuable information on earthquakes and the earth’s tectonic plates.
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