Explorers who had a glimpse of Benham Rise are urging the government to take immediate action for its protection.
A 13-million- hectare territory, Benham Rise is a seismically active undersea region said to be located east of Luzon. It’s shallowest point called the Benham Bank is rich in colorful corals and marine life.
In April 2012, the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recognized and officially approved that Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory.
It was first explored by the government in May 2016. According to Oceana Philippines, a non-governmental organization who was part of the firs exploration team, the area remains preserved, which makes it a potential area for spawning or for fish to lay their eggs. The group said this is enough reason for the government to take immediate action for its protection.
“Yung forms ng corals doon folio sya lahat unlike yung shallow reef natin reef na combination ng folios and branching. So, ito, parang puro sya mga repolyo yung itsura nya (The coral forms there are all folio, unlike in the shallow reef which is a combination of folios and branching. But [Benhan Bank] is full of cabbage-looking corals)” said Oceana Philippines team leader Marianne Saniano.
“There should be more research and exploration not just in Benham Bank but in the entire Benham Rise region,” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos from Oceana Philippines.
Dir. Theresa Mondita Lim said the Benham Rise will also serve as protection for the Philippines in order to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Dahil yun is part of our eastern seaboard (Because it is part of our eastern seaboard). Yung vast coral reef doon sa deep sea coral areas saka yung formations doon sa area (The vast coral reef there in the deep sea coral areas and the formations in the area) actually also help buffer the Philippines from impacts of climate change and other disasters arising from the Pacific Ocean,” DENR-BMD Director Lim said.
The government through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau will launch another round of exploration in Benham Rise.
The Biodiversity Management Bureau of DENR is also creating a management framework for the protection of Benham Rise under which, protected areas will be identified and declared.
Meanwhile, the Senate is also pushing for a bill that would create the Benham Rise Development Authority.
“It will explore the potential of Benham Rise which is energy and biodiversity, number two to protect Benham Rise… number 3 also is to assert our sovereignty in that area,” said Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. — Rey Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue
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