The Benham Rise in the Philippines | National Museum Exhibit

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The Benham plateau, also known as the Benham Rise is yet to be officially renamed the “Philippine Ridge.”

The Philippine Ridge is a seismically active undersea region and an extinct volcanic range located in the Philippine Sea roughly 250 km (160 mi) east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela. Allegedly named after American geologist Kennedy Benham, the area was mapped in 1933 but its connection to the Philippine islands had not been affirmed.

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Benham Rise: A Brief History

On April 2009, the Republic of the Philippines filed a petition to protest on the limits of the continental shelf in relation to the region of Benham Rise. It had been discovered that despite the proximity to the archipelago, the plateau had not been included in Philippine islands territory. The petition, however, got slammed inside and outside the country due to its controversial nature. The Philippines claim over the “Benham rise” is considered to be relevant because surveys have proven that there may be the presence of minerals and natural gas in the area. Solidified methane was also found during the process and it is said that there is a high probability of the presence of natural gas. It has already been proved that the Benham rise is officially Philippines’ property.

As is expected, the Benham rise will be very important when it comes to financing in the near future. The government, led by the Department of Energy “DOE” is expected to make a quest to survey the area for actual gas and any other form of gas content. The Benham Plateau is believed to be abundant in natural gas and manganese nodules and is being eyed by a number of enthusiastic bidders.

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In January 2018, Filipino Congressman Gary Alejano revealed that the Department of Foreign Affairs had approved the Chinese Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences together with the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines to perform a scientific survey of the Rise. After this event, Duterte called for a halt to the survey but the Chinese had already finished two days of work. On February 12, 2018, the International Hydrographic Organization approved the names proposed by China for five features in the Benham Rise after China submitted to the organization its research findings on the area. The names given were in Chinese.

Protection of Benham Rise

The Benham rise is not just a ridge thought to have minerals but it holds a very important place in the culture of ancient Filipinos. Ancient Catanduanes people have fished and roamed the area long before the colonial era. In fact, it is celebrated in Catandunganons’ folktales, legends, and poetry. Today’s largest amount of fish in the Philippines comes from Benham island. In May 2017, the government banned the oil mining and exploration, therefore declaring the ridge a “protected supply food zone.”

On May 16, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte and Oceana, an organization that protects oceans around the world, signed a presidential petition declaring to protect 50,000 hectares of the Philippines rise including the pristine Benham Bank. It was confirmed that the protection of the Philippine Rise was achieved through efforts by government agencies and advocates who supported the idea of declaring the Benham Rise a strict protection zone.

Oceana and other interested environmental organizations circulated an online petition advocating for the protection of the Philippine Rise which attracted more than 26,000 supporters and signatories. In conclusion, the protection of the Benham Rise by Oceana is a great step that would yield a positive outcome.

An exhibit in the National Museum of Natural History was donated by Oceana and is now available for public viewing.

WHAT IS OCEANA DOING IN THE PHILIPPINES?

In the Philippines, Oceana supports the government in its goal to promote national policies that protect the Philippines’ vast marine resources. We use the law to ensure that fish and fishers receive the protections they deserve. We offer professional expertise to aid the government in its goal of establishing sustainable catch limits, subduing discards and protecting spawning habitats. We carry out scientific voyages to educate the public about the importance of healthy oceans and the role they play in the economy of the Philippines by providing food and jobs. Ultimately, our goal is to work to guarantee that the Philippines achieve sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans for the gain of all Filipinos.

You can visit the National Museum of Natural History to see the Philippine Rise exhibit and learn more about Benham Rise.

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