CASIGURAN, Aurora The Area Task Force North (ATF-North) is set to cast the first buoy and lay a flag marker at the shallowest point of the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) on May 16.
A fleet from the ATF-North, headed by Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, will sail to the underwater feature following President Rodrigo Duterte's send-off of a team of Filipino marine researchers to the maritime area on Tuesday.
The event will kick off with a flag raising ceremony onboard the BRP Tarlac which will be simultaneously held with the laying of a flag marker by volunteer Filipino divers at the shallowest point of the undersea region while waving their Philippine flags underwater.
Various agencies conducting the Maritime Air Patrol will also hold a fly-by of aircrafts. This will be done twice, during the singing of national anthem and at the end of the program proper.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be the keynote speaker at the event.
The program will end with the casting of the buoy above the flag marker laid by divers.
The buoy, which was crafted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, was designed based on international standards.
"This undertaking simply reveals to our fellowmen that in unity, we are strong, and that we are passionate in defense and protection of our sovereignty." Salamat noted.
"With the grace of Almighty God, we are blessed as a maritime nation, our country the Philippines, and the whole Filipino nation." he added.
ATF-North is an inter-agency coordinating body in charge of planning and execution of government programs in relation to maritime domain awareness, maritime security patrols and maritime presence over the Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea, Luzon Strait in Batanes Province and the Philippine Rise east of Aurora Province.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, together with other government agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Marines, Philippine National Police, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Governments and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, formed ATF-North to safeguard national interests in the West Philippine Sea. Specifically, the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines leads the inter-agency organization.
On May 16, 2017, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 changing the name of the undersea feature to Philippine Rise.
The Benham Rise Region is subject to sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines pursuant to relevant provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, national legislation, and the UNCLOS and applicable international law, the EO 25 stated.
In 2012, the United Nations, through recommendations of Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, approved the Philippines' claim that the Philippine Rise is within the country's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines first sought recognition for its claims to the Philippine Rise on April 8, 2009. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency