Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana today revealed that Chinese survey ship was spotted in Benham Rise. ABS-CBN News reports that Lorenzana said the reason for the Chinese survey in Benham Rise is yet to be determined. The National Defense chief added that a report reaching him claims the Chinese could be looking for a spot for its submarines.
He said the Chinese survey ship was monitored plying Benham Rise last year for 3 months. He added that the Philippine Navy was ordered, if it happens again, to drive away the Chinese ship from the eastern side of Philippines.
Benham Rise is a 13-million hectare under the sea region, off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela. The shallowest part of the region is Benham Bank, with a depth of at least 50 meters. Virtually larger than Luzon, it was only confirmed by the United Nations as part of the Philippine territory on April 12, 2012.
The area is marine biodiversity-rich and is home to high-value fish species such as blue-fin tuna and black and white marlin.
Scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), University of the Philippines (UP), and Oceana conducted a week-long expedition to Benham Rise which in May 2016.
Oceana said in a press release that “at least 200 fish species including surgeonfish, hawkfish, and damselfish, and large predators such as tiger shark were recorded along with green algae and soft sponges.”
“We saw terraces of corals, as far as the eye could see. It’s so exciting to know that we have such a vast and pristine coral reef ecosystem within Philippine territory,” Oceana Philippines marine scientist Marianne Pan-Saniano said.
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