Benham Rise: UN Approves RP’s Territorial Waters Claim

(Source: TV 9, News & Current Affairs, youtube)

Facts and Figures about Benham Plateau.

According to the Wikipedia,

The Benham Plateau, also known as the Benham Rise, is a seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 km (160 mi) east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

Under the Philippine Sea lie a number of basins including the West Philippine Sea Basin, inside of which is located the Central Basin Fault (CBF).[1] The Benham Plateau is located in the CBF and its basement probably is a micro-continent.[2] Several scientific surveys have been made on the feature to study its nature and its impact on tectonic subduction, including one about its effects on the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The area is a territory of the Philippines which was claimed, as part of its continental shelf, which was then lodged with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 8, 2009 and was approved by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012.[3]  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

Geological features[edit]

The map shows the features of the Philippine Sea Plate.

Benham Rise is a submerged extinct volcanic ridge located at 16 degrees 30 minutes N, 124 degrees 45 minutes E off the coast of Luzon, with the size of about 250 km in diameter and rises over 2,000 meters (2 km.) above the sea floor, from below 5,000 meters (5 km.) below sea level to above 3,000 meters (3 km.) below sea level. Its area is close to the Benham Seamount, located at 15 degrees 48 minutes N, 124 degrees 15 minutes E. The precise location is somewhere near the east of the Philippine Trench and near the south of the East Luzon Trench, both of which absorb the subducting force of thePhilippine Sea Plate under the Philippine Mobile Belt,[4] a collage of large blocks of that crust that amalgamated prior to the collision of the Philippine Sea Plate with the Eurasian Plate.[5]

The origin of the landform, along with a fellow landform, the Urdaneta Plateau (a remnant of mantle plume), is identified in one study as at least five sequences of propagating rifts, probably triggered by mantleflowing away from the mantle thermal anomaly.[6] Its presence of the landform disrupts the continuity of this region (known as the Philippine-East Luzon Trench) by continuously colliding with the Sierra Madre mountain range of eastern portion of the island of Luzon. Though it is generally thought that the Philippine Sea Plate is being subducted under the Philippine Mobile Belt, under the rules of tectonic subduction, there appears to be a resistance to this because of the presence of the landform, and instead, the plate is being displaced into the northern portion of Luzon to the west.[7][8]  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

The geophysical features of the plateau may have been the result of an early Miocene collision event between the Benham Rise and the eastern margin of Luzon, which may have also allowed the inception of the NW striking strand of the Philippine fault.[9] These forces may have impacted the shape of the island of Luzon because of the basaltic sea floor resisting the subduction that may have also cause the bending of thePhilippine Fault.[10] The active basins in Central Luzon, which trace an asymmetrical V shape, is the best place to observe recent tectonic evolution of the fault system.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

History[edit]

The landform is presumably named after Admiral Andrew Ellicot Kennedy Benham (1832–1905) by American surveyors who were the probable discoverers of the geological feature. He was a United States Navyofficer, who served with both the South Atlantic and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons during the American Civil War.[11] There has been speculation in the scientific community about the nature of the landform. Following the major 16 July 1990 Luzon earthquake, scientists reconsidered their fault models and decided it likely that Benham Plateau has similarly displaced the Philippine Fault System to the west.[12] After analysing older models such as that of Pinet and Stephan (1989), scientists reconsidered their fault models. They thought that it is highly likely that the Benham Plateau is still displacing Central Luzon and the Philippine Fault System to the west, which may have had an impact in causing such a catastrophic earthquake. The 20 second to 50 second wave in the 1990 quake that developed a new east-west sub-fault was so strong that it terminated disastrously at the city of Baguio in Benguet, Cordillera. Several scientific surveys, conducted between 2004 and 2008, collected hydrographic data that determined the morphology of the seabed in the region. Additional data from international bathymetric surveys and an analysis of international research projects were collected to support the findings.[13]    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

Benham Rise has been part of 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, large percentage of fish caught by Catandunganon comes from Benham Rise. Its local bicol term is called Kalipung-awan (means loneliness in an isolated place).  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

Philippine claim[edit]

Territorial waters of the Philippines. The Benham rise is located directly east of Luzon.

Despite its proximity to the archipelago, the plateau was previously not included in the territory of the Philippines. On 8 April 2009, the Republic of the Philippines lodged a partial territorial waters claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in relation to the continental shelf in the region of Benham Rise.[14] It was submitted as part of petition expanding the archipelago’s baselines and exclusive economic zone through a law that also included other claims involving disputed territories of the Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands) and Scarborough Shoal. Although the landform, in itself, is not disputed, the petition still received some criticism inside and outside the country because of its controversial nature.[15] According to the government’s claim, based on a set of guidelines by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the area satisfies the 350-mile constraint line since the outer limits of the continental shelf are located landward of the constraint line, which is located 350 miles from the baselines where the measurement of the breadth of the territorial sea begins.[13] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

The Congress of the Philippines enacted Republic Act No. 9522, also known as the Archipelagic Baselines Law, which is the basis of the claim. According to the document the region is bounded by the Philippine Basin on the north and east, and by Luzon on the west and south. It asserted that, according to scientific data based on seismic, magnetic, other geological features, the Benham Rise is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. In summary, the baselines, the basis used for delineating the maritime territorial and jurisdictional zones (including the continental shelf), conform with the requirements of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).[13] The claim is only a partial claim since the law that allows the Philippines to expand its territorial boundaries also includes islands in theSouth China Sea.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

UN Decision[edit]

The Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The UN has officially approved the claim in April 2012.[3][16][17][18]

(Source: Rappler hosted by Maria Ressa, youtube)

Comments:

According to the report mentioned by Pia Hontiveros, Benham Rise is a 13 million hectare sea bed off the coast of Aurora Province, Luzon, Philippines, that may potentially contain steel producing minerals and natural gas.

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UPDATES dated March 15, 2017…the following news item taken from the website of CNN Philippines revealed that China respects the rights of the Philippine Government to its claim over the continental shelf at Benham Rise.  It might be recalled that the continental shelf of the Benham Rise is contiguous to the mainland of Luzon, thus making it a rightful undersea “territory” of the Republic of the Philippines as approved by the United Nations in 2012.  Here’s the Chinese press release and available on-line through CNN-Philippines’ website…here is the link…thank you.

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2017/03/15/China-respects-PH-rights-Benham-Rise.html

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UPDATES  dated March 21, 2017.

The Philippines’ Legal Advisor based in The Hague, Netherlands, in the person of Paulas Defensor-Knack stated on her FB page this opinion on Benham Rise, hereunder:

“This is the correct opinion on Benham Rise. I made it for Die Hard Fans of MDS so they know what to say when they meet an ignorant opponent online…
Benham Rise is not disputed territory. It is underwater, the ridge of a dormant volcano. The Spratlys on the other hand is disputed territory, it is a reef/ low elevation maritime feature. The ownership of the Spratleys is disputed because the arbitration tribunal could not rule on ownership of maritime features. No one owns Benham Rise but since it is continental shelf, it is in our economic zone though the continental shelf can be beyond the EEZ.”  (Exclusive Economic Zone)

DISCLAIMER:

The Earthniversity does not own the articles, facts and figures stated in this post as well as the videos posted herein. The facts and figures about the Benham Plateau or Benham Rise had been taken from the Wikipedia.  The link is herein stated for your reference.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benham_Plateau)

Acknowledgment:

Thank you to Rappler’s Ms. Maria Ressa for the video they posted on youtube.

Thank you to TV 9 News and Current Affairs and Pia Hontiveros for the video they uploaded on youtube.

Thank you to The Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

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  • For discussion purposes only.
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To What Extent Does A Reclamation Project Hurts Biodiversity?

The non-stop reclamation project of China in the disputed group of islands and islets at the West Philippine Sea or the Spratly group of islands has been causing great irreparable damage to the Biodiversity in that region.  The damage had been observed in the shoals and atolls that included the Johnson Reef, McKennan Reef, Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Gaven Reef and Fiery Cross Reef.   Through the UN intervention,  this act of defiance by China should, immediately, stop.

This is the substance of the recently concluded meeting of countries at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The report stated that “Ambassador Lourdes O. Yparraguirre, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, issued her warning before a hundred UN legal experts in a June 10 forum organized by the Philippines that focused on the protection and preservation of the marine environment. With the theme, “UNCLOS and the Protection of the Marine Environment,” the event was held at the sidelines of the week-long 25th Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (SPLOS) at the UN Headquarters.”

(Source: Jane Perlez, the New York Times)

For a detailed discussion on this issue, please click the link hereunder.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/112377/south-china-sea-in-environmental-crisis-due-to-beijings-reclamation-un-forum-told

For related story by Jane Perlez, New York Times, please refer to this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/world/asia/china-building-airstrip-in-disputed-spratly-islands-satellite-images-show.html?_r=0

Tubbataha Reef: A Long Reef Exposed At Low Tide

Tubbataha Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Since the discovery of the  Tubbataha in the late 1970’s, it has been recognized as one of the most remarkable coral reefs on our planet. The CNN travel website, cnngo.com, ranks it as among the top eight dive sites in the world.

According to the Wikipedia:

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Filipino: Bahurang Tubbataha) is a protected area of the Philippines located in the middle ofSulu Sea. The marine and bird sanctuary consists of two huge atolls (named the North Atoll and South Atoll) and the smaller Jessie Beazley Reef covering a total area of 97,030 hectares (239,800 acres; 374.6 sq mi). It is located 150 kilometres (93 mi) southeast of Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan province.[2] The uninhabited islands and reefs are part of the island municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, located roughly 130 kilometres (81 mi) to the northeast of the reef.[2]

In December 1993, the UNESCO declared the Tubbataha Reefs National Park as a World Heritage Site as a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.[3] In 1999, Ramsar listed Tubbataha as one of the Wetlands of International Importance.[4] In 2008, the reef was nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.[5]

The national park and the rest of the Philippine archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle, recognized as a center of marine biodiversity containing 75% of the described coral species and 40% of the world’s reef fish.[6] The area is under a grave threat due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices.[7] Research of scientists visiting the reefs since the 1980s revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whalespecies, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.

Because of its isolated location, Tubbataha can only be visited on a liveaboard boat. Divers can experience the reefs’ dramatic underwater terrain, awe-inspiring biodiversity and encounter large marine animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays.

Tubbataha is a combination of two Samal words which are “tubba” and “taha” which means, “a long reef exposed at low tide”.

Source: Youtube by DazzlingPhilippines.

As a visiting diver, you will play an important role in Tubbataha’s future, as your conservation fees provide the funds needed to protect the park from illegal exploitation.

(Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim) March 20, 2013.

According to a report from Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer of Common Dreams, the United States has agreed to pay the $1.9 million in compensation for the damage to the reefs caused by U.S. Navy minesweeper.  And then, as early as the first quarter of 2015, local news in the Philippines carried a banner story about the Philippines receiving the amount for the rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reefs. 

According to Germanos, the USS Guardian rammed into the reefs and got stranded there for the next two months and had to be cut into pieces to be extricated.  This happened in January, 2013.

A UNESCO  World Heritage site, the park website describes it as being at the heart of the global center of marine biodiversity.

(ANDREA GERMANOS, STAFF WRITER OF  Common Dreams.)

Hereunder is a video about Going to Tubbataha Reefs, uploaded on youtube by Chris Hewett.

 

According to the website of Tubbataha Reefs, there  is one Manta Rays that is a resident of Tubbataha reefs.  Here’s the article:

Reef Manta Rays

Philippines’ first record of Manta alfredi

In 2012, using data collected by research volunteer consultant Dr Terry Aquino, marine scientist Dr Will White confirmed that the Manta Rays in Tubbataha are Manta alfredi, a reef based species, rather than Manta birostris, a pelagic species roaming the open seas.

This is exciting since there was previously no record of Manta alfredi in the Philippines.

The Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) is found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. However, actual populations seem to be sparsely distributed.

Manta alfredi is considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List Status and an average of 30% decline in its population is suspected. They have a low reproductive rate with females bearing a single pup only once in two to three years.

Mantas are majestic creatures, loved by scuba divers. They are highly sensitive to marine conditions and are therefore an important indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystems.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, in the township of Cagayancillo, a part of the Province of Palawan.

The website further stated that, “the park contains roughly 10,000 hectares of coral reef, lying at the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global centre of marine biodiversity.  Scientists have been visiting these reefs since the 1980s, and their research has shown that Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is home to no less than 600 species of fish, 360 species of corals (about half of all coral species in the world), 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins & whales, 100 species of birds, and also nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles.”

For additional information, please check this link:

http://holidaytopalawan.com/tubbataha-reef/

How To Get There?

How to get here? You must go to Manila to book a flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Once you’ve arrived there, dive operators will gladly guide you to the pier where the boat going to the reef is waiting. It’s a 10-hour ride to the park and usually, the boat drivers will suggest that you’ll leave at around after dinner so that you arrive there by early morning the next day. It may seem that it will eat a big time before you reach the reefs but I tell you, it’s worth it.

If you’re a diver and you haven’t been to the mystical Tubbataha Reefs then you’re missing out a big part of your diving life. It’s the best place to be.

Read more http://philippineblog.com/tag/how-to-go-to-tubbataha-reef/

Comment:

Since the Manta Alfredi is sensitive to marine conditions, it is, therefore, good to know, that for as long as these Manta Rays are present in Tubbataha, we can conclude that the reefs’ ecosystems are healthy.

The Management of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park had been actively engaged in various activities that allowed scuba divers and tourists to explore the reefs but on top of their agenda was the protection and conservation of Tubbataha.

For more topics about the Tubbataha Reefs, please visit this link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/653

http://www.islandream.com/philippines/tubbataha_map.htm

Map showing the Tubbataha Reefs.  Located in the middle of Sulu Sea between Palawan and Panay.

Acknowledgement:

Earthniversity is thanking its various sources of information and videos used in this post.  Thank you very much.

Coral Gardening Technique

In the past, I have been thinking of the best way to rehabilitate the coral reefs which had been damaged by passing ships or illegal fishing method like dynamite fishing.  When I saw this video,  which I posted here,  I concluded, that there is a future for the protection and conservation of  corals and coral reefs, specifically, in areas where their presence is threatened.

Please watch this video which is published by BBC Earth.

 

And here’s another video about Coral Gardening in Fiji Island. (Source: youtube and Rossco-j)

 

Pacific East Aquaculture, Corals by Dr. Mac, produced this video which I got from youtube. Please check this out.

Thank you,  BBC Earth, Rossco-j, Pacific East Aquaculture Corals by Dr. Mac and Youtube.

Coron, El Nido and the Cruise Ships

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The Province of Palawan in the Philippines, have been one of the favorite destination areas of cruise ships that sail this part of Asia.  Two of these cruise ships are Le Soleal and Caledonian Sky.  The latter had scheduled a few visit to Coron, Palawan in 2015 and the former included El Nido and Puerto Princesa City among its destinations. For more details, please refer to this link.

http://balita.ph/2015/01/30/coron-shores-to-welcome-ms-caledonia-sky-cruise-ship-anew-on-valentines-day/

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Palawan is home to a string of islands and islets that are protected by the environment laws of the Philippines.  These laws  also covered the protection and conservation of the corals, the coral reefs as in the case of Tubbataha Reefs and other marine life surrounding the entire province. El Nido, specifically Bacuit Bay and the areas of Coron are among these protected areas.  For more details about Le Soleal schedule to El Nido and Puerto Princesa, Palawan, please visit the link here:

http://cruises.priceline.com/sc.do?c=344&v=836&i=892933&d2=08/17/2016&dsc=y&tab=itin

Cruise ships, on the other hand, need to dock at its port of call.  In the absence of this port or a wharf, passengers are transported to the islands by several boats.  With this docking activity, the corals and other marine life will be threatened by the visiting cruise ships.  Because of the size of the cruise ship, I think there must be an agreement between the Local Government Unit and the Cruise Liner operating these cruise ships, among others, for a cautious passage of the cruise ships in coral abundant areas of these islands.

                                                Source:  http://wikitravel.org/en/El_Nido          

There is also a fear of a coastal pollution and threats to the marine life of El Nido, Coron and Puerto Princesa.  It is a common knowledge that cruise ships have their own set of rules and guidelines to implement so that they can protect and preserve the environment they visited.

It is therefore, a must for the Local Government Unit and other stakeholders in these destination areas to be more vigilant in monitoring the compliance of these cruise ships with the local environment laws.

We are aware that the business sector and the tourism sector, as well as the community, are all benefited by the visit of these cruise ships.  So, while they are welcome and the local business sectors provide them with amenities and services that can make their visit a memorable one, the local community should also emphasize the most important aspect of this tourism activity – helping the community protect and conserve the marine environment.

If there will be a higher level of coordination between these two key players, then the local community such as El Nido, Coron and the coastal areas of Puerto Princesa will be protected.  On the other hand, the cruise ship can also lessen their environmental footprints.

Source: youtube, uploaded by DW (English).

All photos of El Nido, Palawan by Henry C. Libo-on.