Before Japan and South Korea expressed their interest to legally explore the Philippine-owned Benham Rise, leaked information has been reported Tuesday in China Daily regarding the country’s secret under-sea exploration in the area.
In 2011, the Philippines acquired Benham Rise, described as a “massive” area east of Luzon.
The description comes from Carlos David, the new head of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD). “We have access to resources in an area bigger than Luzon, but we actually don’t know what we have.”
“There are lots of oceanography, lots of fisheries and biodiversity,” he said, citing data from the pioneering work conducted by scientists at the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
“Is there gold, cobalt, copper, sunken treasure? We don’t know,” he said, adding indications are that valuable minerals are there.
“It’s potentially rich in precious and base metals like manganese, some gold and so on, spreading from the center of the rise,” he said. “There is a very large area in mineral deposits.”
The report says China has discovered massive minerals under Benham Plateau. The volume of natural gas was said to be in par with the deposit under the Spartly Islands. The report further said that China may not be able to extract the gas because the territory belongs to foreign party.
“China must befriend first with the host country in order to gain control of the area” a translated version of the news said.
Benham Rise is located in Pacific Ocean and very far from the territories claimed by China in West Philippine Sea.
Japan Authorities who first learned about the news are worried that China would do everything to lure the Philippine government in giving-up the territory.
As an immediate preventive measure, Japan and South Korea immediately informed the Philippine authorities regarding their interest to explore the area.
Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council on Industry, Energy and Emerging Technologies Research and Development, said Benham Rise has attracted the interest of experts from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) to collaborate on conducting the survey.
Japan also advised the Philippines’ DOST not to buy an expensive remotely operated underwater vehicle for resource mapping, but “just collaborate with us or rent our equipment.” The DOST official Carlos David clarified that “combining a (resource) exploration with scientific research might enable the Philippine government to get assistance from Japan and Korea for free,” David stated.
Japan, Korea, and Philippines aired concern about China’s secret under-sea exploration outside its exclusive zone.