Mil­i­tary to build per­ma­nent struc­tures at PH Rise in 2 yrs

Manila Times - - NEWS - LLANESCA T. PANTI

THE Navy will build per­ma­nent struc­tures in Ben­ham Rise in the next two years to es­tab­lish its naval pres­ence in the north­east­ern un­der­wa­ter ter­ri­tory also called the Philip­pine Rise, De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said on Fri­day.

Three months ago, divers from the Philip­pine Navy planted the coun­try’s flag in the un­der­wa­ter plateau seven me­ters be­low the wa­ter sur­face, off the coasts that stretch from Ca­gayan to Bi­col. The area was de­clared by the United Na­tions in 2012 as part of the Philip­pine con­ti­nen­tal shelf.

“My es­ti­mate is that… if we have the fund and we get the cor­rect tech­nol­ogy, maybe in two years’ time we’ll be able to start [ build­ing] per­ma­nent struc­tures. We want to have a plat­form where he­li­copters could land and we want a place for our ships to go near there and dock, on top of de­ploy­ing marine bi­ol­o­gists and other sci­en­tists,” Loren­zana told re­porters in a news con­fer­ence at the pres­i­den­tial palace.

Loren­zana, how­ever, clar­i­fied that the es­tab­lish­ment of a naval pres­ence in nearby ar­eas will take prece­dence over the per­ma­nent struc­tures that have yet to be al­lo­cated any funds.

“Our plan [ for] now is to es­tab­lish a naval pres­ence in Casigu- ran, con­sid­er­ing that there is an air­port there that is sel­dom used. The other one is in Po­lilio, which has been used by the Amer­i­cans as an airstrip dur­ing World War 2. There’s an­other one at the tip of Ca­gayan. So, we’ll have three jump off points for our pa­trols,” Loren­zana told re­porters.

The de­fense chief stressed that the im­per­a­tive for the Philip­pine mil­i­tary is to pro­tect Ben­ham Rise around its whole stretch of 13 mil­lion hectares, as huge as Lu­zon, and is home to the blue fin tuna, the most ex­pen­sive tuna in the world.

“Fish­er­men from other coun­tries have been poach­ing there for a long time… from Taiwan, South Korea, China. Even Ja­pan comes to Ben­ham Rise. And we would like to pro­tect what be­longs to us. That’s our plan,” Loren­zana said.

“We have to pro­tect our re­sources,” Loren­zana added.

The Ben­ham Rise was des­ig­nated as a “pro­tected food sup­ply exclusive zone” by the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment in May 2017. The gov­ern­ment banned min­ing and oil ex­plo­ration in the plateau as a pro­tected area. In the same month, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte signed Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der No. 25 re­nam­ing the re­gion to Philip­pine Rise.

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