PH defers Holy Week expedition to Benham Rise

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2017 10:18 AM

A technical diver checks out the coral cover during an expedition at Benham Rise last May 26, 2016. Screengrab from a video produced by Oceana Philippines

MANILA - State scientists have postponed a planned expedition to Benham Rise this Holy Week due to a looming weather disturbance, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced Tuesday.

Researchers from the agriculture ministry's Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources were supposed to check on fish stocks in a shallow portion of Benham Rise, an underwater plateau off the Philippines' Pacific coast, this Friday and Saturday.

Weather bureau PAGASA, however, warned that a low pressure area (LPA) may form off Mindanao on Tuesday.

Piñol, in a Facebook post, said the LPA may "result in rough seas which would make it difficult for the team to conduct activities" on Benham Rise.

"The expedition has been rescheduled for the second week of May when the waters are expected to be calmer," he added.

Chinese ships were reported to have sailed in the Benham Rise area from November to January, causing concern in the defense establishment.
 
There had been limited research on the area, but an expedition last year found pristine corals, diverse marine life and untapped gas reserves in the area.

The postponed Holy Week expedition would have set up "payaws" or fish sheds in Benham Rise and study the viability of establishing structures like research facilities with helicopter landing pads, Piñol said.

Fishermen from Quezon province were supposed to join the expedition.