The Commision on the limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) of the United Nations adopted in full the country’s submission declaring the Benham Rise part of the Philippine Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) on April 12 2012.
The Benham Bank is the shallowest area of the Rise and within this shallow area emerged the peak of an isolated seamount, one among over 30,000 seamounts found in the world’s ocean.
This effectively gives the Philippines sovereignty over the Benham Rise Region which covers a seabed area of 135,506 sq.km.
Seamount habitats can be biodiversity hot spots because of available substrates for macrophyte and invertebrate recruitment and settlement abundance of food; and the interaction of dynamic currents (e,g, the kuroshio) with the supply of nutrients from the deep.
The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) funded the program “Exploration, Mapping and Assessment of Deep Water Areas”.
Filipino scientists conducted the oceanographic exploration and surveys at the Benham Bank, the shallowest part (50 meters of the Benham Rise, on board the research vessel M/V BFAR on May 18, 2014.
The program seeks to learn the dynamics of the region and to generate benchmark data as bases for the national government to proactively plan and manage its territory.
It is being managed by the UP Marine Science Institute, UP National Marine Science Institute, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and UPLB- School of Environmental Science and Management.
The activity collaborated by UP Diliman, UP Los Baños and DA-BFAR was backed-up by researchers from the UP Mindanao, UP Baguio. Xavier University, Ateneo De Manila University and the local diving industry.
Fishing activities have been known to occur in Benham Rise even before the country was awarded its claim. The assessment of the benthic marine biological features and resources of the Benham Bank Seamount, initiated by the pioneering research project will contribute to the efforts of documenting deep-water biodiversity of the Benham Rise Region.
Results of the surveys will input to the knowledge/status of the Philippine deep sea biodiversity resource planning and management. It will benefit the scientific community, governing the agencies tasked to manage the resources and the general public as well as contribute to the effective management and scientific understanding of the globally significant area.
The exploration of Benham Rise is only one of the many research and development initiatives on aquatic concerns supported by PCAARRD.(PSciJournMegaManila).