Senator Loren Legarda has underscored the need to conduct an inventory of marine resources in the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) to give the country a clearer view of the importance of this undersea feature and the needed interventions to preserve, protect and sustainably manage these resources.
Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said that relevant government agencies must ensure that funding requirements for the exploration and protection of the Philippine Rise are included in the proposed 2018 budget.
“Based on initial explorations, 100 percent coral cover was observed in several sites and the area brings bright promises in terms of energy, mineral and other biological marine resources,” said Legarda.
She said this means there are opportunities to tap the area as food and energy resource, but it should be done in a sustainable manner.
For now, she said an inventory would help determine the next steps that the government should take immediately.
Legarda said that for 2017, there is an appropriation of P38 million for assessment and baseline activities in the Philippine Rise.
For 2018, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is proposing P60 million for the Philippine Rise wtih P30 million to be spent for geologic and offshore mapping under the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the other P30 million for scientific expedition and management of coastal habitat under the Biodiversity Management Bureau.
The senator noted that in a recent expedition to the Philippine Rise led by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, it was estimated that the government would need an initial budget of P5 billion to start efforts to protect the undersea feature, which has an area approximately 24 million hectares in size.
“All government agencies concerned in the protection of the Philippine Rise should include initial programs and respective funding needs in their proposed budget for 2018. Meanwhile, the current P38 million budget for assessment and baseline activities should be fully utilized within the year,” Legarda said.
In 2011, Legarda was part of the Philippine delegation that met with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York regarding the country’s territorial claim over the Philippine Rise.
In 2012, the CLCS ruled that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Benham Rise is located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.