So as to entice marginal Filipino fishermen hunting for high-value tuna, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza on Sunday supported the plan of the Department of Agriculture to put up shelters in the shallow portions of Benham or the Philippine Rise.
“Subject to the conduct of environmental impact studies, we favor the plan construct docks in the banks of Benham to draw in handline fishermen in motorized boats from as far as Quezon province,” Atienza, author of a bill seeking to establish the Philippine Rise Protection and Development Authority, said.
“Studies by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have demonstrated that there is a high catch rate for big-eye tuna, yellowfin tuna and albacore tuna in the waters of Benham,” Atienza said.
Handline tuna fishing could improve in a big way the living standards of marginal families in the coastal communities around the region, according to Atienza, the senior deputy minority leader.
Atienza earlier urged Malacañang to certify his bill that seeks to establish the PRPDA “to safeguard and manage the resources found in the waters, seabed and subsoil of region that rightfully belong to the Philippines.”
Under the bill, the PRPDA’s governing board would include the heads of the departments of environment and natural resources, agriculture, energy, science and technology, finance, tourism, public works and highways, and defense, plus three private sector representatives.
During the administration of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippine government in 2009 specifically marked Benham as within the limits of the Philippine continental shelf.
The demarcation was approved by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf three years later.
Atienza was environment and natural resources secretary when he had Benham surveyed and mapped between 2007 and 2008 to gather the technical data that would later officially define the region as inside the Philippine continental shelf.
“There’s no question Benham is of great economic value to Filipinos,” Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, said.
Benham is located off the Philippines’ Pacific coast, some 250 kilometers east of the northern beaches of Dinapigue, Isabela.