CAMP GEN SERVILLANO AQUINO, Tarlac City (DWDD) – The commemoration for the awarding of the Benham Rise by the UN Tribunal and renaming it to Philippine Rise was a feat for all Filipinos as it was celebrated by the Area Task Force-North (ATF-North) for two (2) days at different venues.
Spearheaded by the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), ATF-North has made another milestone as President Rodrigo Duterte has already signed the Presidential Proclamation declaring the Philippine Rise a protective marine source area on May 15, 2018 (Tuesday). Further, the president has given the signal for the conduct of Maritime Scientific Research (MSR) as he graced the send-off ceremony for the All-Filipino Marine Expedition in Casiguran Bay, Aurora onboard BRP Davao Del Sur (LD602) on same day.
The second day of the celebration started with a flag raising at LD602, simultaneous with the laying of underwater flag marker at the shallowest point of Benham Bank on May 16, 2018 (Wednesday). The marker laying was made possible with the concerted and synchronized efforts made by one hundred twenty-six (126) Filipino divers onboard the BRP Tarlac (LD602) of the Philippine Navy. The divers, coming from both uniformed agencies and civilian volunteers, were properly organized and made rehearsals to ensure safety during the underwater activity.
This was immediately followed by the first casting of buoy at Philippine Rise, which was designed and fabricated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The buoy and the underwater marker were initially onboard the research vessel MV BFAR before hoisting them to the sea, using an underwater Remote-Operated Vehicle (ROV), sponsored by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Notably, Filipino fishermen on boats (Bangka) were unexpectedly seen fishing in same site adjacent to the flotilla at the Philippine Rise, justifying that Filipinos before have been fishing in that area of the underwater plateau. As the fishermen got nearer the navy ship, some of the participants for the event had the chance to talk with the fishermen saying they came from the municipality of Infanta in Quezon Province. This was the first occurence that “Bangca Boats” were seen ashore.
The AGR702, research vessel of the Philippine Navy with other scientists onboard, also made the passing-through the LD602 as part of the ceremony. A fly-by of Philippine Airforce, Navy and Coastguard aircrafts signaled the culmination of the event. NOLCOM / MCAG