Sunday, May 20, 2018

Protecting The Philippine Rise (Benham Rise)

The Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, has been the hot topic lately. While the Philippine government is trying to show and assure that the country has sovereignty over the Philippine Rise, the Armed Forces of the Philippines in general is starting to make headway that it is capable of keeping that posture of Philippine sovereignty of the Philippine Rise.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez committed to help in Philippine Rise studies

BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) is capable of conducting oceanographic and hydrographic surveys. (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702) will commit to help Filipino scientists in conducting further research off the 13-million-hectare Philippine Rise.

This was disclosed by Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna during the first anniversary of the renaming of the Philippine Rise in Casiguran off Aurora province on May 16.

Luna said this is in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte's order that all available support be provided to Filipino scientists tasked to conduct additional studies off the Philippine Rise.

"I understand (that) the BRP Gregorio Velasquez is already here. She is our research ship. I will tell (Defense) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that I am committing her to you and you can use her anytime," Luna said in Filipino.

The ship is capable of conducting oceanographic and hydrographic surveys.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) is one of the two ex-American ships pledged by then president Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines during the APEC Leaders Summit in November 2015.

The other ship is the USCGC Boutwell, which is now renamed to BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) – the third Hamilton-class cutter of the Philippine Navy (PN).

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez was commissioned into the PN service in June 2016. In 1976, then R/V Melville was used in the movie “King Kong” starring Jessica Lange because of its Hypoid propulsion drive capability to move sideways. This type of drive is used on research vessels for station-keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.

As per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez – a pioneer in Philippine phycology, a branch of science pertaining to the study of algae and seaweeds.

Velasquez was named an academician in 1978 and conferred as National Scientist in 1982.

He was also conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in 1969, World's Who's Who in Sciences in 1970, and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972.

While BRP Velasquez is the sole MSR vessel of the Navy, it is not the only one that can assist the team of scientists. The mapping of the area was done by two multidisciplinary vessels – BRP Hydrographer Presbitero and BRP Hydrographer Ventura of the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority (NAMRIA) while key MSR sorties have been utilizing M/V DA BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources).

Activities for the first year anniversary of the renaming of the Philippine Rise started with a send-off ceremony for the marine scientists by President Duterte at the mouth of Casiguran Bay and the signing of Presidential Proclamation declaring Portions of the Philippine Rise as Marine Resource Reserve Area.

These events were highlighted by an on-deck flag raising ceremony at BRP Davao del Sur (LD-602), simultaneous with the laying of underwater flag marker at 47 feet below sea level (shallowest part of Philippine Rise). The activities were documented by an underwater video conducted by geologists of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau using a remotely-operated vehicle.

This was followed by the casting of the first buoy off the Philippine Rise.

The one-ton buoy was made of fully urethane foam with a stainless body attached to a five-ton concrete anchor by a 40 mm. fully ethylene rope.

It was designed in Malabon but was fabricated in San Fernando, Pampanga for 10 days from April 2, 2018.

A transponder costing PHP85,000 was also attached to the buoy to determine its exact location.

Article source: Philippine News Agency (May 18, 2018)

Northern Luzon Command Head eyes port improvements to enhance PH Rise patrols

In order to enhance the country's capabilities to protect the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise), Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) head Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat is looking at the possibility of upgrading the various ports near the above-mentioned territory.

He made this statement when asked on whether there are plans to construct a naval facility in Casiguran, Aurora, the landmass nearest to the 13-million-hectare Philippine Rise.

The Nolcom chief was aboard BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602), the lead ship of the Filipino flotilla tasked to arrange the commemoration of the first anniversary of President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order 25 which renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise on May 16, 2017.

The BRP Davao del Sur was joined by eight ships from the Navy, Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Two FA-50PH jet fighters, a Coast Guard Islander plane and a Navy C-90 patrol aircraft also made a series of fly-by during the dropping of a buoy where a Philippine tricolor was drawn.

"As of now, I don't have an idea except that they have a proposal to, I myself have (a) proposal (to) upgrade and capacitate (the) development of our port facilities so that they can sustain (our) rotational presence here in Philippine Rise," Salamat said.

"Without port facilities, our ships, our maritime (patrol vessels) cannot sustain sustain longer (operations) in the seas," he added.

He admitted, though, that these proposals, should they near fruition, need a considerable amount of resources.

The Philippine Rise buoy laying and flag-raising mission, he said, will set the tempo on more patrols in the area.

"Of course as (soon) as the requirements (we need) are (provided as soon as possible to) Nolcom and (Area Task Force North) in coordination with other maritime agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard, the BFAR, we will continue our rotational presence in Philippine Rise," the Nolcom chief said.

Article Source: Philippine News Agency (May 17, 2018)

Area Task Force-North to cast first buoy, lay flag marker in PH Rise Wednesday

The Area Task Force North (ATF-North) is set to cast the first buoy and lay a flag marker at the shallowest point of the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) on May 16.

A fleet from the ATF-North, headed by Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, will sail to the underwater feature following President Rodrigo Duterte’s send-off of a team of Filipino marine researchers to the maritime area on Tuesday.

The event will kick off with a flag raising ceremony onboard the BRP Tarlac which will be simultaneously held with the laying of a flag marker by volunteer Filipino divers at the shallowest point of the undersea region while waving their Philippine flags underwater.

Various agencies conducting the Maritime Air Patrol will also hold a fly-by of aircrafts. This will be done twice, during the singing of national anthem and at the end of the program proper.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be the keynote speaker at the event.

The program will end with the casting of the buoy above the flag marker laid by divers.

The buoy, which was crafted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, was designed based on international standards.

"This undertaking simply reveals to our fellowmen that in unity, we are strong, and that we are passionate in defense and protection of our sovereignty." Salamat noted.

"With the grace of Almighty God, we are blessed as a maritime nation, our country the Philippines, and the whole Filipino nation." he added.

ATF-North is an inter-agency coordinating body in charge of planning and execution of government programs in relation to maritime domain awareness, maritime security patrols and maritime presence over the Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea, Luzon Strait in Batanes Province and the Philippine Rise east of Aurora Province.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, together with other government agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Marines, Philippine National Police, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Governments and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, formed ATF-North to safeguard national interests in the West Philippine Sea. Specifically, the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines leads the inter-agency organization.

On May 16, 2017, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 changing the name of the undersea feature to Philippine Rise.

“The Benham Rise Region is subject to sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines pursuant to relevant provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, national legislation, and the UNCLOS and applicable international law,” the EO 25 stated.

In 2012, the United Nations, through recommendations of Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, approved the Philippines’ claim that the Philippine Rise is within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines first sought recognition for its claims to the Philippine Rise on April 8, 2009.

Article Source: Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2018)

Corrected as President Duterte didn't jet skied at the Philippine Rise.

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