To mark its sovereignty over Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise), the Philippines planted the national flag there on Monday, June 12, celebrating the 119th Independence Day.
Divers from the Philippine Navy’s newest ship, the BRP Davao del Sur, set the flag on a concrete base 57 meters below the water surface. As the divers hoisted the Philippine flag underwater on Philippine Rise, another flag was also raised above deck of the Navy’s biggest and newest ship, the BRP Davao del Sur, according to Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, chief of the military’s Northern Luzon Command, said in a speech.
The Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and civilian volunteers participated in the event. Aurora Rep. Bellaflor Amhara-Castillo and Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil attended the event as guests of honor.
“We gather from all walks of life to put up the most powerful symbol, driven by the passion of our collective cause, to re-echo our sovereignty over Philippine Rise,” he added.
The flag that was planted in the Philippine Rise was a standard 0.9 m x 1.35 m and is made of fiberglass to withstand damage by saltwater. The pole, made of stainless steel, is 14 meters tall.
Scout Ranger and the member of the Presidential Security Group Maj. Christopher Constantino, served as one of the lead drivers. He said that despite some glitches, the divers were able to plant the flag underwater in about 19 minutes.
The undersea plateau and biodiversity hotspot is located off eastern Luzon, in the Pacific Ocean.
The 13-million-hectare submerged region is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the East.
The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Philippine Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012.
Chinese survey ships were spotted in the area for about three months last year and the sightings prompted President Duterte to assert Philippine sovereignty over the region and rename it Philippine Rise through Executive Order No. 25, which he signed on May 16.