By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines-Northern Luzon Command (AFP-NoLCom) said that the Area Task Force-North (ATF-North) celebrated on Wednesday the Philippine Rise Annivery at its shallowest point of the Benham Plateau.
AFP-NoLCom Spokesman and Public Information Office chief Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, said ATF-North, an inter-agency coordinating body under the National Task Force – West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), is presently headed by Lt. Gen. Emmanuel B. Salamat, Northern Luzon Command chief and Chairman of ATF-North.
The celebration included the 1st anniversary of the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise last May 16, 2017 and the 6th year after the Philippine Rise was awarded and granted the sovereign rights over the said maritime area last April 2012.
A total of nine vessels from the Philippine Navy (PN) , Bureau of Fire and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) formed the flotilla and participated in the event. The PN vessels are comprised of LD601 (BRP Tarlac), LD602 (BRP Davao Del Sur), AGR702 (research vessel BRP Velasquez) and FF16 (Fast Frigate).
The BFAR vessels, on the other hand, include the (MMOV) newly acquired and locally made 50-meter long vessel, and a 30-meter Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) vessel made in Spain.
The significant event, dubbed as Philippine Rise All-Filipino Maritime Scientific Research Expedition and Oceanic Buoy-Casting, is a two-day celebration that started on Tuesday (May 15, 2018), with a send-off ceremony for the marine scientists by President Duterte at the mouth of Casiguran Bay and the signing of Presidential Proclamation declaring Philippine Rise as a Protected Marine Source Area.
The activity started with an on-deck flag raising ceremony at LD601, simultaneous with the laying of underwater flag marker at 47 feet below sea level (shallowest part of Benham Bank) and documented by an underwater video coverage conducted by the geologists of DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The equipment was attached to the MV DA-BFAR vessel as the main platform of the scientific expedition that will provide the actual perspective view of the seabed.
Nato said Salamat then gave his opening remarks and later introduced the Guest of Honor and Speaker, Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna of the Department of National Defense (DND).
It was followed by casting of the first buoy at Philippine Rise. The one-ton buoy was made of fully urethane foam with a stainless body attached to a five-ton concrete anchor by a 40 mm fully ethylene rope. It was designed in Malabon but fabricated in San Fernando, Pampanga which started since April 2, 2018 and lasted for ten days.
A transponder was also attached to determine its exact location costing BFAR a total of P85,000 to manufacture the said floating marker.
The activity was culminated by a fly-by using two Philippine Airforce FA50 fighter jets, an Islander (PCG 251) of the Philippine Coast Guard and a TC90 of the Philippine Navy.
Nato said NoLCom will continue to be an active partner in strengthening maritime domain awareness and will pursue its mandate of protecting our fellow Filipinos and securing our sovereign territory.