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NAMRIA, a hydrographic survey officer and Benham Rise.

By Gilbert S. Gaviola

Thanks to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), its hydrographers and other dedicated commissioned officers, the Philippines firmed up its claim on the natural resource-rich Benham Rise off the eastern seaboard of Luzon.

NAMRIA? Hydrographers?


One of NAMRIA's core functions is the delineation of the maritime boundaries of the Philippines.

The agency was responsible for the establishment of the Philippine archipelagic baselines which were enacted into law in 2009.

The agency also led the preparation and successful defense of the country's submission to the United Nations for an extended continental shelf in the Benham Rise Region.

Benham Rise

"The agency also led the preparation and successful defense of the country's submission to the United Nations for an extended continental shelf in the Benham Rise region," said Lt. Commander Antonio Valenzuela Jr., a NAMRIA Commissioned Officer presently assigned at Survey Support Division (SSD) of the Hydrography Branch (HB).

In 2009, NAMRIA conducted hydrographic surveys at Benham Rise and developed a bathymetric model which served as the basis for the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) claim.

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"The duties of a Hydrographic Survey Officer include geodetic survey, hydrographic survey, physical oceanographic observation, nautical charting and marine cartography, navigation officer and administrative functions among others," Sir Tony shared.

"Functions may also include gathering, analyzing and reporting hydrographic, oceanographic, environmental and technological information and other events and developments; drafting technical notes and correspondence and working with other government agencies, international organizations and private groups in promoting NAMRIA survey activities or carrying out collaborative projects."

"They shall take the responsibilities of an Officer-in-Charge to any field survey party or handle/manage survey vessel operations."

Safe navigation

"Our main function is to acquire and analyze hydrographic and oceanographic data to be used in promoting navigational safety and oceanographic research."

Its outputs include nautical charts, electronic navigational charts, tide and current tables, list of lights and other maritime publications.

Maritime boundaries, sustainable fishing

NAMRIA determines the different maritime zones, delineating them in accordance with domestic laws and the UNCLOS and works closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs when it comes to maritime boundary issues.

"Our agency is mandated to delineate the municipal waters of 928 coastal cities and municipalities in accordance with Republic Act No. 8550 Series of 1998 otherwise known as, "The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998" as amended by Republic Act No. 10654 Series of 2014 otherwise known as, "An Act to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing," amending RA No. 8550.

Municipal waters delineation, Sir Tony pointed out, is very important especially for coastal communities for the protection of the rights of fishermen, management and conservation of fishery and marine resources, coastal zone protection and development, aquaculture, mineral exploration and other marine related activities which are contributory to local and national development.

In demand

"There was a time that hydrographic surveyors were in demand abroad that brain drain was experienced in the office," Sir Tony recalled.

"There will always be a demand for hydrographers. Because our country is an archipelago, the need to keep the nautical charts and other maritime information updated is important to the maritime community."

Commissioned Officers are officers in the uniformed service of NAMRIA appointed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines and include the ranks of Ensign, Lieutenant Junior Grade, Lieutenant Senior Grade, Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, and Commodore.

To be a Commissioned Officer at NAMRIA, one has to be a Bachelor of Science degree holder in any of the following fields: Geodetic, civil, mechanical, electrical, electronics, mining, or chemical engineering, or graduates of a naval or military academy recognized by the government with at least a Bachelor of Science degree.

Search, relief ops and more

In 2013, the two vessels of the agency, the BRP Hydrographer Presbitero and BRP Hydrographer Ventura delivered 300 metric tons of relief goods to Tacloban City, which was whipped by super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Hydrographic surveys also helped locate the sunken vessels MV Starlite Atlantic, Solar I off the coast in Guimaras.

In 2007, BRP Hydrographer Presbitero was utilized as survey platform in the conduct of the Inner Space Speciation Project (ISSP) by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Geographic Channel.

The ISSP project is aimed at making a vertical survey of the water column in the Celebes Sea to determine whether the biodiversity were as rich as has been reported for shallow water fishes and corals.

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Apr 29, 2018
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