Exactly a year after its renaming, the Philippine government asserted the country’s sovereign rights over the Philippine Rise, the vast resource-rich underwater plateau off the coast of Eastern Luzon.
On Wednesday, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other government agencies sailed to the shallowest point of the Benham Bank for the historical casting of the first buoy in the Philippine Rise and the laying of a flag marker.
According to the AFP Northern Luzon Command, the buoy was placed directly above a flag marker laid earlier by Filipino divers a year before. Meanwhile over 100 volunteer divers participated in the laying of a second flag marker in the area.
The events were preceded by a colorful flag raising ceremony aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur which was participated by flag-waving AFP and government personnel.
“Ito ay pag-aari natin, na kumbaga ay nilalagyan natin ng bakod na hindi pwede na kahit sino ay papasok dito at mag-aangkin nitong lugar na ito,” Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna told reporters.
“Hindi natin makakaila na yung geopolitics dito sa atin very volatile. Maraming maaaring mangyari. Ang tawag dito kumbaga sa chess, unahan. Nauna na tayo rito. Hindi na kayo pwedeng pumunta dito. Nandito na kami,” he explained.
This comes a day after President Duterte signed a proclamation declaring 50,000 hectares of the Philippine Rise as a strict protection zone limited to scientific studies, more than 300 hectares as a special fisheries management area.
The President also sent off an all-Filipino team of 50 marine scientists for a research expedition in the area.