The military will plant the Philippine flag at the underwater plateau of the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) to mark the country’s 119th Independence Day.
The planned “historical endeavor,” according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), is a joint interagency and multi-stakeholder effort with divers coming from the military, Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and civilian volunteer divers.
“The activity intends to assert our patriotic ownership of this maritime zone and raise awareness of its strategic value,” Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Nolcom public affairs chief, said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will also visit the 13-million hectare undersea region to the flag hoisting scheduled on June 15.
The Ship Deck Flag Ceremony will be onboard the Philippine Navy’s (PN) newest and biggest vessel, the LD602 BRP Davao Del Sur.
“The Philippine Ridge is not among the areas in dispute with neighboring countries and the Philippines has the sovereign right to explore and exploit all the natural resources found in the Philippine Ridge as part of its extended continental shelf (ECS),” said Nato.
In March, Lorenzana announced that Chinese vessels were spotted surrounding the Benham Rise, but China said the vessels were only passing through.
President Rodrigo Duterte renamed the area Philippine Rise. DEMPSEY REYES