Seas the Day
Benham Rise and West Philippine Sea
- UP Marine SCience society
- subject matter experts
UP Marine Science Society
Pursuit In The Advancement of Philippine Science
Philippine Marine Science Society
We, the members of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Society, have confidence in the capabilities of our Filipino scientists to conduct quality research that are of national importance.
We strongly believe that our marine scientists are competent to conduct scientific expeditions on the Philippine Rise.
In the last four years, many Filipino marine scientists have devoted their efforts to explore the Philippine Rise, particularly its biological composition and physico-chemical oceanographic processes that provide scientific basis for understanding the Philippine waters and its environs. Findings from these surveys have already been shown that a lot more awaits discovery. More work needs to be done, and researchers continue to do so despite logistical constraint and limited funding.
As aspiring researchers with hopes of catalysing sustainable progress in the future, it is discouraging that our work is devalued and unappreciated. This sentiment resonates to all Filipino scientists who have continuously dedicated their lives in the pursuit of the advancement of science in the Philippines.
We are not against international collaboration; in fact, we encourage it. However, like most transactions in the government, we demand for transparency. We demand for clear objectives, detailed itinerary, coherent work plan, and unwavering support from our government. It is for these reasons that we urge the national government to prioritize support for our scientists in conducting research by providing necessary assistance for research expeditions.
This applies not only to the field of marine science, but to the whole Filipino scientific community. -
We Are Not A Nation Of Beggars
FILIPINOS HAVE BEEN EXPLORING THE BENHAM RISE REGION FOR YEARS
[Fair warning: for the first time, i am about to really rant about something]
I was going to write on this MSR brouhaha again and try to do something that could actually help this government clarify some things they just don't get, but then I am outraged by a huge hollow-block thrown against the entire FIlipino nation. Presidential Spokesperson Roque's claim that Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise, that "no one can do it", that the Philippines "needs China" to do it, and "only China qualifies" is completely wrong, based on ignorance, a serious disservice to Filipino scientists in particular and the Filipino people in general, and an over-exaggeration of China's potential role in Philippine ocean sciences.
In the first place, FIlipinos have been exploring the Benham Rise Region for years now:
1) From 2004-2008, then again in 2010, the DENR's National Mapping and Resource Information Authority sent BRP Hydrographer Presbitero on multiple bathymetric and hydrographic surveys of the Benham Rise Region, producing a highly detailed 3D digital bathymetric model (resolution of 1 meter for an area covering 30 million hectares) of the entire region compliant with the highest quality standards of the International Hydrographic Organization. That was a Philippine vessel with full Filipino crew (mariners of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Division) funded completely by the Philippine government. That batheymetric model was absolutely necessary for the Philippines to support its claim to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles with 2D and 3D geomorphological analysis.
2) For the past decade, the DA's Bureau of FIsheries and Aquatic Resources has been annually conducting fisheries research and experimental fishing expeditions in the Benham Rise Region, particularly in areas between the coast of Luzon and Benham Bank, to determine the tuna fishery potential of its waters. This has been undertaken by the M/V DA-BFAR multi-mission research vessel for so long, that BFAR has confidence in promoting and opening the region as the country's new tuna fishing ground.
3) Two oceanographic research cruises have been organized, funded by the DOST, supported by DA-BFAR, and with the participation of the University of the Philippines, De la Salle University, Silliman University, and other academic institutions (apologies as I forget), which gave the Philippines its initial glimpse of Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of Benham Rise. These were done in 2014 and 2016. A third cruise is being planned for this summer 2018 (fingers crossed). All are crewed by Filipino scientists, marine science students, Navy and Coast Guard technical divers, and mariners. Supplementary support/assistance so far was provided by Oceana, a non-government organization advocating marine resources conservation, in the form only of a remotely-operated vehicle unit and technicians to control it, and additional scientists and technical divers to augment the 2nd expedition's personnel. Both previous expeditions were Philippine-funded, the same goes for the planned third cruise. The first people to actually descend and "touch" Benham Bank 50m below the Pacific, were Filipino technical divers. That's our "Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon" historical moment.
4) Since 2016, the UP National Institute for Geological Sciences and UP Marine Science Institute have been collaborating with counterpart institutions from Korea and Japan, namely the Korea Institute for Ocean Science and Technology, and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, to begin initial exploration of the seabed in Benham Rise itself under separate memoranda of agreements. As I understand it, among other things, the Philippines intends to get seabed core samples through this arrangement, which push forward the resource assessment and exploration efforts for the Rise.
5) Geologists of the UP NIGS have acquired and reviewed available public domain data from multiple scientific research cruises by multiple nations that have passed through the Benham Rise Region, and produced academic papers and analysis of their own, which were used as evidence to support the claim to Benham Rise. The detailed tectonic history, geological characteristics, and underwater topography have been determined and analyzed by these Filipino scientists, and their findings tested and and papers validated by foreign scientific advisors as well as the scientific community through the continental shelf claim process and the academic press.
6) Marine biologists of UP MSI, UP SESAM, and other schools have been analyzing the many samples and observations that they gathered from the two research cruises, and making some interesting findings and potential discoveries on their own. These are Filipino researchers, earning salaries and wages from Philippine sources, and working in accordance with stringent scientific standards and procedures on par with anyone else in the world.
7) In addition to the small research vessels of UP, DENR and DA-BFAR, the Philippines now has a deep-sea research vessel in the form of the BRP Gregorio Velasquez that was handed over to the Philippine Navy by the US. This ship used to be the USS Melville, carrying a crew of 23 plus up to 38 marine scientists on board, and was formerly operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It played a key role in US oceanography for over 45 years, and is still going strong. The PN, in collaboration with marine science institutions, is developing its own capacity to operate and maximize the use of this venerable vessel for hydrography and marine science. Last summer, the PN and UP-MSI took the ship "around the block" conducting a running MSR data-collecting cruise spanning the waters of Mindoro, KIG, Southern Palawan, the Sulu Sea and Tubbataha Reef. Even the PN, with multi-purpose ships like the BRP Davao del Sur, has demonstrated that it can operate in the area, and with appropriate crew and equipment, can host all manner of research activities in addition to military purposes.
8) By the way, the Philippines has yet to explore the possibilities of using new technologies that are becoming fast accessible and affordable. Technologies and techniques for manufacturing floating and underwater autonomous vehicles (sometimes called "gliders" or "drones") guided by artificial intelligence, each unit costing around USD100,000 each, have been offered for free to the Philippines by at least one friendly country, not China. This could mark a new era in indigenous marine resource exploration in the near future. Other countries are already using these gliders to conduct oceanographic researches in the deep ocean at a fraction of what they used to cost. A small squadron of AI-guided gliders could quickly conduct deep seabed exploration in the deep oceans at much less expense than even current levels. And I have no doubt that the Philippines can do it as well.
FOR GOVT TO SAY THAT FILIPINOS NEED CHINA TO EXPLORE BENHAM RISE AS IF THERE IS NO ONE ELSE THAT CAN DO IT IS BOTH A BRAZEN FALSEHOOD AND A DISSERVICE TO THE HARD WORK AND DEDICATION, THE TALENTS AND CAPACITIES, OF THE FILIPINO SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, a number of whom I have worked with and call my colleagues and friends.
I have had the privilege of working on international legal claims with these talented people, through the Tubbataha Reef Particularly Sensitive Sea Area Application before the International Maritime Organization, and the Extended Continental Shelf Project which generated TWO claim documents (one for Benham Rise Region, successfully submitted and validated, and another for the Western Palawan Region which up to now has been sitting on somebody's desk, but that's another story entirely) for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Although China is indeed a formidable scientific force in the contemporary ocean sciences, IT IS BY NO MEANS THE ONLY ONE. To date, even without China, the Philippines has been able to assemble its own modest scientific expeditions, and continues to develop its capacities and capabilities to do so, both on its own and with willing partners.
CHINA IS AN OBVIOUS OPPORTUNITY, BUT NOT AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY. To imply that only China can give the Philippines any hope in exploring and exploiting Benham Rise is a twisted and gross exaggeration of its potential role in cooperation with the Philippine marine science community. While the possible benefits from cooperation with China should be recognized, we should not be fixated with it.
THE LIMITATIONS UPON PHILIPPINE MARINE SCIENCE CAPACITIES AND CAPABILITIES IS NOT SO MUCH A MATTER OF POVERTY AS IT IS A MATTER OF PRIORITIES.
The modest efforts to date demonstrate that with the proper budgetary support from government and clear research goals and objectives, as well as a good vision and great confidence in our own people and expertise, the Philippines CAN do these things on its own. It may take longer, and may be more difficult, BUT WE HAVE SHOWN THAT WE CAN DO IT.
We may have relatively few marine scientists and even fewer marine science vessels, but they have done a lot despite limited resources. What more if government actually gave the sector the attention and respect it deserves?
THIS GOVT'S DENIGRATION OF FILIPINO SCIENTISTS AND FILIPINOS IN GENERAL, CLAIMING THEY CANNOT EXPLORE BENHAM RISE WITHOUT CHINA OR CHINESE MONEY, IS A TOTAL SHAM MEANT TO DISEMPOWER AND DEMEAN FILIPINOS AND THEIR CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY AS A PEOPLE. IT MAKES FILIPINOS APPEAR HELPLESS, CLUELESS AND PENNILESS ON SOMETHING ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEY ARE NOT.
WE ARE NOT A NATION OF BEGGARS FOR SMALL CHANGE, EVEN THAT COMING FROM A COUNTRY AS BIG AND RICH AS CHINA.
[...but then again, maybe that's what gov't means by "change is coming."]
Local Scientists Are Very Capable To Do Scientific Research If Given Government Support
January 24, 2018
AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People denounces Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement that no Filipinos can do scientific research at the Benham Rise.
This statement is an insult to Filipino scientists who have braved the deep oceans despite inadequate support and funding from the Philippine government. Roque should realize that it is through the efforts of our scientists in which we have continually strengthened our claim to disputed territories such as the Benham Rise.
Contrary to Roque’s unfounded pronouncement, Filipino scientists were in fact the first to explore the Benham bank. Most of these researches were funded by the Philippine government while some were done in collaboration with foreign institutions. There were already several research expeditions in the Benham Rise which includes the DENR-NAMRIA’s bathymetric and hydrographic survey; DA-BFAR’s fisheries research; UP National Institute of Geological Sciences’ seabed exploration to name a few.
Local scientists have documented in two expeditions in 2014 and in 2016 the rich biodiversity and potential in the Philippine Rise. Together with technical divers from the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the UP Marine Science Institute, the UP Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management, and Oceana, explored and documented the rich marine life found in the said area.
We have brilliant and patriotic scientists who are willing to study our natural resources and use such knowledge for national development.
However, the lack of government funding and support has been a hindrance to maximizing the research potential of the country’s vast natural resources. Contrary to the Duterte government’s claims, this is not an issue of affordability, rather, it is an issue of lack of support and priority.
Filipino scientists need support to conduct research in our rich territorial lands and waters. Instead of being servile to China in exchange for foreign aid, the government should support Filipino scientists to utilize the resources in our territories such as the Benham Rise towards national development.
While international scientific collaborations can work for the common good, we believe that these should be built on the principles of mutual respect, transparency, and equal participation of local scientists and foreign collaborators in every stage - from planning to publication.
These should be conducted on the grounds of an independent foreign policy and ensuring that these investigations primarily serve Filipino interest. Such collaborations, be it research or exploration, should not trample our sovereignty and should not be subservient to the interests of other countries.
We should be wary of deceitful international activities that pose as research expeditions but are used to cover up schemes to exploit our country’s natural resources. As enshrined in the Constitution, these natural resources are part of our national patrimony and its utilization should primarily serve the Filipino people. The government should immediately terminate existing agreements that do not pass to these standards.
We call on our fellow Filipino scientists to belie the Duterte government false assertions and reject their shady deals. We urge them to join us in calling for greater government support for local research and development and persevere in our struggle to uphold our national sovereignty.#
Deputy Secretary General
AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People
email@example.com (02) 282.4129
Opening remarks by Prof. Nestor G. Yungue, UP-VP for Administration, UP System
Dr. Jay Batungbacal (IMLOS-UP Diliman) speaks on the maritime issue of territorial seas. He is also a lawyer.
Dr. Hildie Maria E. Nacorda (SESAM, UPLB)
Ricardo Saturay, Jr. (DYNASLOPE Project, PHIVOLCS) on charter change and its impact on national territory and patrimony.
Dr. Porfirio Aliño (UP Marine Science Institute) on the history of the research Explorations inthe Benham Rise and West Philipine Sea