DOST eyes Japanese technology to map Benham Rise

Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) may negotiate for an affordable P25-million resource mapping of Benham Rise by a Japanese government deep-sea exploration agency.

Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council on Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), said that while the talks with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology (JAMSTEC) was still ongoing, they were looking at a cost of around P25 million for the activity.

“It will cover certain target areas only. These are ‘transects,’ meaning a survey line across Benham,” David said, explaining the low price tag for the resource mapping over the 10 million-hectare ocean plateau.

“It will be a 10-day survey,” he added. “No details yet but each will be hundreds of kilometers long.”

David said the mapping was an “exploratory survey which we can follow up if we get good information.”

David earlier said they expect JAMSTEC to undertake the survey by next year.

He said the 2018 timetable for the project was due to the availability of a ship to be made available by the Japanese agency to do the survey at Benham Rise.

It was learned that JAMSTEC was able to give a low price for resource mapping of Benham Rise for the Philippine government, particularly the DOST, since they will just conduct the survey on their way back from Australia where they were tapped to do a collaborative resource survey over the Lord Howe Rise with Geoscience Australia.

JAMSTEC and Korea’s Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) had earlier expressed interest in collaborating with the DOST for a resource exploration over Benham Rise.

They made the offer during the 1st Philippine Deep Sea Resources Summit spearheaded by the DOST-PCIEERD last year.

In the summit, Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS), said the government should undertake some effort to assess resources in the Benham Rise and undertake extraction efforts to assert the Philippines’ jurisdiction and mineral resource extraction rights over the area.

While the United Nations and international laws recognize the Philippines’ rights over Benham Rise, Batongbacal said the country’s laws are deficient in further solidifying the Philippines’ exclusive economic rights, particularly extractive, over the prospectively resource rich area.

“There’s no more question on our jurisdiction. But our laws need to be updated, particularly our mining laws,” Batongbacal said.

“Our mining law has provisions that cover only 200 nautical miles. Benham Rise is 200 nautical miles and beyond,” he added.

With Benham Rise acknowledged to be a mineral resource rich area, Batongbacal said this delineation is important.

“For us to be able to fully undertake all the activities legally in the area beyond the 200 nautical miles, we should establish the legal regime,” Batongbacal said.

JAMSTEC had expressed interest in helping the Philippines do a survey in Benham Rise after their recent six billion-yen Submarine Resource Research project in 2011, which had uncovered as much as $4 trillion in polymetallic minerals, hydrothermal deposits, rare earth elements and valuable manganese nodules in the deep sea areas that lie between Japan and the Philippines.

South Korea is also going heavily into deep-sea mining, even leasing huge concession areas in countries such as Tonga, Fiji and the International Seabed Authority to successfully wildcat for minerals.

It was learned the exploration of the deep-sea areas had revealed mineral strikes for Korea: with huge “strikes” of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, hydrothermal deposits and seafloor massive sulphides in the acquired areas.

South Korea is starting to develop remotely operated underwater vehicles for seabed mining.


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