Presidential proclamation signed to protect Philippine Rise
A solitary oriental wrasse is known to inhabit coral reefs with abundant invertebrates, which they feed on.
© Oceana/UPLB
Presidential proclamation signed to protect Philippine Rise
(The Philippine Star) - May 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has signed a presidential proclamation to protect 50,000 hectares of the Philippine Rise including Benham Bank, where some areas have 100 percent coral cover, as a “strict protection zone.”

“I’m officially issuing a presidential proclamation, formally declaring parts of the Philippine Rise undersea feature as a marine resource reserve,” Duterte said recently in a media briefing aboard the navy ship Davao del Sur off the coast of Aurora.

Benham Bank, covering around 17,000 hectares, is declared a no-take zone and thus closed to any human activity except scientific research.

An additional 300,000 hectares will also be declared as a fisheries management area. Fishing using active gears is banned in FMAs under Republic Act 10654, which amended the Fisheries Code. A fisheries management area is subject to protective measures to ensure that there will be no illegal fishing and overexploitation of marine resources.

The Philippine Rise is a 24.4-million-hectare undersea region located east of Luzon, which includes a 13.4-million-hectare outer section that was validated by the United Nations’ Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as part of Philippine territory in 2012. The shallowest part of the region is Benham Bank, with a depth of at least 50 meters.

Duterte said that the presidential proclamation includes the requirement for continuous assessment of coral reef and fish species, which he said is “vital for the management of the Philippine Rise and its resources.” He also committed to capacitate Filipino scientists to fulfill their mandates in conducting scientific research in Philippine Rise.

The proclamation is expected to set the legal framework for the protection and sustainable management of Philippine Rise as it is automatically subject to the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, RA 7586.

“This is a remarkable event, especially for the protection of our oceans and ensuring seafood security for future generations, amidst the growing threats of climate change and overfishing,” said Marianne Pan Saniano, marine scientist for Oceana Philippines.

Saniano said that the protection of the Philippine Rise was achieved through the pooled efforts of government agencies and advocates, who supported the urgent call to protect the Philippine Rise, and especially declare Benham Bank as a strict protection zone.

“When we went to Benham Bank in 2016 with our government scientists, navy and coast guards, we saw terraces of corals, as far as the eye could see. We still have such a vast and pristine coral reef ecosystem within Philippine territory which we still need to protect,” Saniano said.

Oceana and other environment organizations circulated an online petition calling for the protection of Philippine Rise, gathering more than 26,000 signatures.

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