From May 3-18, 2014, Filipino scientists aboard the research vessel M/V BFAR conducted oceanographic exploration and surveys at Benham Bank, the shallowest area of Benham Rise with a depth of 50 meters. The objective was to determine the resources available in the territory for future economic benefits.

The initiative, dubbed “Exploration, Mapping, and Assessment of Deep Water Areas,” was funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD).

It was a collaboration of the UP Marine Science Institute, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, UPLB – School of Environmental Science and Management, and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The project was likewise backed by researchers, scientists and seasoned dive specialists from UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, Xavier University, Ateneo de Manila University and the local diving industry.

The Philippines was given sovereignty over the Benham Rise Region  when, on April 12, 2012,  the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations adopted in full the country’s declaration of the Benham Rise as part of the Philippine Extended Continental Shelf.

Benham Rise covers a seabed area of 135,506 sq km. within which emerges the peak of an isolated seamount, one among over 30,000 seamounts found in the world’s oceans.  

Seamount habitats can be biodiversity hotspots because of available substrates for macrophyte and invertebrate recruitment and settlement, abundance of food, and the interaction of dynamic currents with the supply of nutrients from the deep.  

To assess the biological features and resources of the Benham Bank Seamount and contribute to the efforts of documenting deep-water biodiversity in the Philippines, the pioneering research project was implemented.

Results of the survey will contribute to resource planning and management as well as scientific understanding of this globally significant area, thus benefiting the scientific community, government line agencies tasked to manage the resources, and the general public.

At the same time, knowledge about Benham Bank Seamount’s biodiversity may be linked to the productivity of the entire Benham Rise Region which had already been the site of fishing activities even before the country was awarded its claim.

“Exploration, Mapping, and Assessment of Deep Water Areas,” is just one among several R&D projects on aquatic concerns supported by PCAARRD.

The Council is slated to showcase the rest of its leading R&D initiatives and innovations in agriculture, aquatic and natural resources that will raise the agri sector’s productivity to world-class standards in DOST’s upcoming National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) on July 24-28, 2015 at SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

PCAARRD will give the media a peep into its plans for some agri-aqua commodities at the 2015 NSTW Outcome One Press Conference  on July 3, 9 am at Sulo Riviera Hotel, Diliman, Quezon City. These commodities include banana, goat, mud crab, plant growth promoters, abaca, and Benham Rise. Bearing the theme Strategic Industry Program for Agri-Aqua Growth (SIPAG) ni Juan, the presscon will have DOST Secretary Mario Montejo and DOST Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Raymund Liboro among the panel of resource persons.  (S&T Media Service)

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