MANILA — Philippine Navy (PN) ships will now be a common sight in the 13-million hectare Benham Rise which lies off the Aurora and Isabela coast.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed this on Friday shortly after the deployment of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16) in the area was made public.
The ship and her crew were conducting sovereignty patrols in the wake of reports that Chinese survey ships were spotted in the maritime area last year.
“The Navy will henceforth regularly patrol Benham Rise partly due to past Chinese activities there but more importantly, because it is part of our continental shelf,” he added.
Lorenzana said Philippine presence in Benham Rise is only fitting as the territory was awarded to the country by the United Nations in 2012.
“Our next activity is to have the area surveyed to clearly determine its limits, depths, coral formations, etc,” the DND chief stressed.
Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702), the Philippine Navy (PN)’s sole survey and hydrographic ship, can be deployed for survey missions off the Benham Rise should President Rodrigo Duterte and Lorenzana formalize the order.
The BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the R/V Melville) was one of the two ex-American ships pledged by then President Barack Obama during his visit to the Philippines during the APEC Leaders Summit in November 2015.
The other ship was the USCGC Boutwell which is now renamed the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17) and the third Hamilton-class cutter in the PN service.
The BRP Gregorio Velasquez was commissioned into PN service in June 2016.
The R/V Melville was used in the 1976 movie King Kong, starring Jessica Lange.
It was used specifically because of its Hypoid propulsion drive (at that time), which allowed it to move sideways. This type of drive is used on research vessels for station keeping in the ocean over drill and coring sites.
Per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a pioneer in Philippine physiology.
Velasquez was elected as academician on 1978 and conferred as National Scientist on 1982.
He was conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in1969, World’s Who’s Who in Sciences in 1970 and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972. Priam Nepomuceno/PNA-northboundasia.com