Japan, Korea interested in exploring Benham Rise

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Japan and Korea have expressed interest in research and exploration of the mineral resource-rich Benham Rise, an underwater volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea east of Isabela.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said yesterday it is hopeful that it could undertake a vital resource mapping over Benham Rise with Japan and Korea.

Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council on Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development, said Benham Rise has attracted the interest of experts from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) to collaborate on conducting the survey.

JAMSTEC would like to do a survey using its ¥6-billion submarine research project, David said.

In 2011, the agency uncovered polymetallic minerals, hydrothermal deposits, rare earth elements and valuable manganese nodules in the deep sea between Japan and the Philippines.

David said JAMSTEC had advised the DOST not to buy an expensive remotely operated underwater vehicle for resource mapping, but “just collaborate with us or rent our equipment.”

In an interview with The STAR at the 1st Philippine Deep Sea Resources Summit the DOST organized this week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas Center, Quezon City, David said “combining a (resource) exploration with scientific research might enable the Philippine government to get assistance from Japan and Korea for free.”

He said any information they could get from Benham Rise research would help them understand their own areas prone to earthquake.

While the United Nations and international law recognized Philippine ownership over Benham Rise, the country’s laws are deficient in further solidifying its exclusive economic rights over the resource-rich area.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said Philippine laws should be updated to assert the country’s jurisdiction over the area.

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