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PH researchers explore Benham Rise

MANILA, Philippines – A  team of academic and government research scientists and volunteers recently began exploring Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare area off the coast of Aurora. The territory is officially recognized as part of the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

According to a news article published by the University of the Philippines (UP) on Tuesday, May 6, the team left Manila on May 3 on board sea vessel M/V DA-BFAR to conduct the first ever benthic survey – or a survey of the lowest ecological region of Benham Rise. (READ: Filipinos conquer new territory: Benham Rise)

The team is led by Dr Hildie Nacorda of UP Diliman’s Marine Science Institute, and is composed of researchers and volunteers from UP, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Xavier University, and Ateneo de Manila University.

The team will document their journey through its Twitter account, and is expected to spend at least two weeks on the expedition as part of BFAR's plan to explore the potentially rich marine resources in the new territory.

Bigger than the 10.5-million hectare Luzon, the underwater Benham Rise is believed to be rich in steel-producing minerals and natural gas. The government hopes that natural resources in Benham Rise can help the Philippines become energy self-sufficient and even export it in the future. (READ: Making A Claim)

The survey of Benham Rise comes almost 2 years after the United Nations approved the country's claim over the territory.

While the Philippines was able to successfully claim Benham Rise in 2012 under UNCLOS, the same convention has not resolved any of the several territorial disputes in the South China Sea. (READ: Benham Rise: PH's new territory off Aurora– Rappler.com