National Museum exhibit dives deep into the Philippine Rise

Manila, Philippines — Images of the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve, including the pristine Benham Bank, are the newest addition to the collection of the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit called “The Journey Towards the Protection of the Philippines Rise” brings to the public stunning images and videos of the marine biodiversity and reefscapes of the Philippine Rise, the resource-rich undersea region located within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippine Sea.

Plates of foliose corals look like terracesin the bank. This is a common sight on the bank and characteristic of mesophotic reefs, found at depths from 30 meters (100 feet) to 150 meters(492 feet).© OCEANA/UPLB
Plates of foliose corals look like terracesin the bank. This is a common sight on the bank and characteristic of mesophotic reefs, found at depths from 30 meters (100 feet) to 150 meters(492 feet).© OCEANA/UPLB

The exhibit features a 3D model of the 170 square kilometer Benham Bank, the shallowest point of the larger underwater plateau that is the Philippine Rise. There are numerous photos of the 2016 Benham Rise expedition that explored the deep sea reefs of Benham Bank.

Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)resting on coral. Hawkfish lead a solitary life and are usually spotted atreef drop-offs.© OCEANA/UPLB
Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)resting on coral. Hawkfish lead a solitary life and are usually spotted atreef drop-offs.© OCEANA/UPLB

The exhibit was donated by Oceana Philippines (official website) to the National Museum last November. It is now available for public viewing.


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Cardinalfishes (Apogon sp.) are mouth brooders and liveon urchins and branching corals.© OCEANA/UPLB
Cardinalfishes (Apogon sp.) are mouth brooders and liveon urchins and branching corals.© OCEANA/UPLB

Jeremy R. Barns, National Museum Director, in a speech read during the opening of the exhibit underscored the protection of the Philippine Rise as a historic accomplishment and the Philippine Rise as natural patrimony.

Sponges provide a vitalhabitat for marine organismslikesmall fishes.© OCEANA/UPLB
Sponges provide a vitalhabitat for marine organismslikesmall fishes.© OCEANA/UPLB

“This museum of natural history was precisely intended to serve as a center of science and education. This museum has, since its opening last May, also made clear that there is very deep interest in our natural patrimony among the Filipino people, of all ages and walks of life, and from friends from around the world, evident in the levels of visitor numbers unprecedented in the history of Philippine museums. People are coming in great numbers of thousands per day, and the challenge for us is to take this precious opportunity of the time they freely choose to dedicate within the walls of this special space to transmit the knowledge – the science, the advocacies – to as many as possible – to spark curiosity, to join the dots, to awaken the sense of connection with the world around us – and to facilitate an experience that will hopefully have a lasting impact when they return to the world beyond the museum building,” said Barns.

Solitary oriental wrasse (Oxycheilinusrhodochrous) isknown to inhabit coral reefs with abundant invertebrates, which they feed on. © OCEANA/UPLB
Solitary oriental wrasse (Oxycheilinusrhodochrous) isknown to inhabit coral reefs with abundant invertebrates, which they feed on. © OCEANA/UPLB

“We put up this exhibit to show the unique beauty of the Philippine Rise and to let the public understand what this underwater plateau looks like. We want also to document for posterity the journey that led to presidential proclamation on the Philippine Rise as a marine resource reserve. We are proud to be part of the outstanding collaboration of government agencies and institutions from all sectors to champion the protection the Philippine Rise. Its conservation ushers in new hope for our food security, as well as ecological security,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Philippines Vice President.

A juvenileemperor angelfish(Pomacanthusimperator) and epaulette soldierfish(Myripristis kuntee) taking shelter amongst Hallimeda underneath boulders. © OCEANA/UPLB
A juvenileemperor angelfish(Pomacanthusimperator) and epaulette soldierfish(Myripristis kuntee) taking shelter amongst Hallimeda underneath boulders. © OCEANA/UPLB

“The Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve is the first offshore protected area of the Philippines. We also hope that this exhibit represents our collective vision of a well-managed Philippine Rise for our sustainable future,” she added.

A technical diver collects sediment samples for fauna and flora analyses.© OCEANA/UPLB
A technical diver collects sediment samples for fauna and flora analyses.© OCEANA/UPLB

The Philippines claimed the Philippine Rise as part of its continental shelf in a claim filed with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2009. The claim was approved in 2012 and is the first validated claim under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the first major expansion of the maritime boundaries of the Philippines since our exclusive economic zone was declared in the 70s.

Arc-eye hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus) is a cryptic reef fish that usually hides in holes and crevices. © OCEANA/UPLB
Arc-eye hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus) is a cryptic reef fish that usually hides in holes and crevices. © OCEANA/UPLB

On May 15, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Presidential Proclamation 489 declaring 350,000 hectares of the Philippine Rise as a marine resource reserve and almost 50,000 hectares as a strict-protection zone.

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