AFP plans naval base, backs research at Philippine Rise
ABOARD BRP DAVAO DEL SUR — The Armed Forces of the Philippines wants to build a naval base in Casiguran to guard against foreign intrusions on Philippine Rise off the coast of Aurora province.
“That is on the planning board,” Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, the head of the Northern Luzon Command, said on Wednesday.
Salamat said he also proposed the upgrade of port facilities to maintain the military’s presence in order to support efforts “to secure, preserve and conserve our rich resources here in Philippine Rise.”
Big ships, such as frigates and strategic sealift vessels like the BRP Davao del Sur, were needed to patrol the vast region.
“All area commands require this kind of [naval] platform to be able to ensure the protection and preservation of our natural resources and secure our territory,” he pointed out.
He hoped that the national government would provide the resources to improve the AFP’s “sea power.”
The Navy also will be backing scientific research at Philippine Rise.
Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna said President Duterte has committed support to underwater researchers and would be given full use of the BRP Gregorio Velasquez, a research vessel capable of conducting oceanographic and hydrographic survey.
“Just make a request and the Navy, the Coast Guard, our boats are ready,” Luna said.
The ship was commissioned by the Navy in June 2016. It was named after a Philippine physiology pioneer and national scientist, Gregorio Velasquez.
Then US President Barack Obama committed to provide the ship to the Philippines during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in 2015.
Gil Jacinto of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said he hoped that the research to be undertaken on Philippine Rise would be institutionalized.
“Work here will take us not only a couple of years, it will take decades. It is not for our generation only, it is for the next generation,” Jacinto explained.
The rise is a submarine prolongation of Luzon, extending up to 589 kilometers from the eastern Philippine seaboard. Its reefscapes—containing corals, algae, sponges and Halimeda—sustain a variety of fish including the Pacific bluefin tuna.
Its seabed is believed to hold cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, hydrothermal polymetallic sulfides and gas hydrates.
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