BFAR: Time to maximize Benham Rise

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources eyes a survey of the Philippines' new territory that is bigger than Luzon

UNDERWATER PLATEAU. Found near Aurora, the 13-million hectare Benham Rise is part of Philippine territory. Screen grab from a document the Philippines submitted to UN

MANILA, Philippines — For the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), it’s time to maximize Benham Rise, the Philippines’ new 13-million hectare territory that is potentially rich in oil and other marine resources.

The Philippines is thus planning to explore Benham Rise, as well as the largely unexplored Pacific seaboard, said BFAR director Asis Perez in a phone interview with Rappler.

The Philippines wants to eventually build port facilities in the area, he said. “Ilalagay ho natin para mapakinabangan natin ang ating pangisdaan sa lugar na ‘yon,” Perez said. (We will install these so we can maximize the area’s fisheries.)

BFAR is set to survey the area in August, Perez said, to determine its potential contribution to Philippine fisheries. “We know that there are so many fish in the area,” he said.

The Pacific seaboard has been a fishing site for other nationalities, such as the Taiwanese, whom Philippine officials have apprehended for territorial incursions.

FIRST VICTORY. This is the Philippines' first victory for territorial claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Screen grab from a document the Philippines submitted to UN

Bigger than Luzon, Benham Rise became part of Philippine territory based on a certification issued by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf earlier this year. (Read: Benham Rise: PH’s new territory off Aurora.)

It is the first territory that the Philippines won under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), the same convention the Philippines invokes in its two-month standoff with China over Scarborough Shoal.

Information on Benham Rise, however, remains limited due to the extent of the studies conducted in the area. The Palace, too, has yet to make an official announcement on the Philippines’ new territory. –

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