President Duterte heads to the Philippine Rise today to assert the country’s ownership over the resource-rich underwater plateau.
Duterte goes a year after he signed Executive Order No. 25 renaming Benham Rise to the Philippine Rise on May 16, 2017.
At the Philippine Rise, Duterte will send off around 50 Filipino scientists from Aurora to begin research in the resource-rich territory.
Last month, Duterte said he would visit Philippine Rise to make a bold statement that the Philippines “owns this place.”
“I’m going to set sail to Benham Rise and I will make a statement there that nobody but nobody owns this place, including the continental shelf,” Duterte said.
The Philippine Rise is a natural submarine prolongation of Luzon located 218 kilometers from the coast of Aurora and is home to rich marine biodiversity with reefscapes containing corals, algae, and halimeda that sustain a variety of fish.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Philippines has the sole right to explore and exploit the mineral resources in the Philippine Rise. It is said that its seabed may also contain highly valuable minerals.
With its fishery resources, the region is crucial to fishermen in Quezon, Aurora, Catanduanes, and adjacent provinces. It is also said to have the highest catch rate of tuna species compared to other areas in the country.
Last March, Duterte said he is ready to go to war against any country that will conduct research or experiments in the Philippine Rise without the government’s permission.
“If any country would say that they want to try and experiment there without our permission, hindi talaga ako papayag and it will mean war,” Duterte said in Davao City. “Nandoon na ang mga Marines. ‘Wag kayong matakot, kasama ako doon,” he added. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)