Benham Rise Biyaheng Dagat

By Manny Piñol
Secretary, Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries

Officials of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) will sail to the Philippine Ridge, also known as the Benham Rise, on Wednesday along with several Filipino fishermen to explore the potentials of the 13-million-hectare shelf off the coast of Aurora Province for the country's food requirements.

Travelling with me are top officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) led by Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, a retired Coast Guard Commodore, and scientists on board the government-owned Oceanographic Research vessel MV DA-BFAR and at least three smaller DA-BFAR patrol vessels called the MCS.

Joining the flotilla would be 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.

The new fiberglass fishing boats will be distributed to groups of fishermen in simple ceremonies in Infanta, Quezon on Wednesday before the flotilla will sail to the Philippine Ridge or Benham Rise.

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.

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.

The Philippine Ridge or Benham Rise is part of the continental shelf of the country located in the Eastern Portion of Luzon extending from the coastal lines of Aurora Province.

It has been declared in 2012 by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, a development which effectively increased the country's area from 30-million hectares to 43-million hectares.

Just what is the Benham Rise or Philippine Ridge?

Here is a brief information about this underwater plateau.

" BENHAM RISE is a 13-million-hectare undersea region that lies east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. Also known as Benham Plateau, it is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, and is described in a study as a thickened portion of the Philippine sea plate's oceanic crust. The formation lies within the continental shelf of the Philippines as defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), under which a coastal state's exclusive economic zone extends 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from its continental shelf, while its extended continental shelf extends for another 278 km (150 nautical miles).

"Benham Rise is not subject to any maritime boundary disputes and claims. Studies conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have indicated large deposits of methane in solid form in the area."

In the last Cabinet meeting which I attended, President Rody Duterte has proposed the renaming of the Benham Rise to Philippine Ridge to further emphasise the country's ownership of what could potentially be a rich fishing ground for Filipinos of the next generation.

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