A BILL declaring a portion of Benham Rise, locally known as the Philippine Rise, as protected area has been filed at the Senate.
Senate Bill 591, filed by Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, seeks to proclaim the part of Benham Bank within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a Marine Resource Reserve under the National Integrated Protected Areas System.
Passage of the law will institutionalize and provide adequate funds for the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve (PMRR), which will also enhance the country’s sovereignty over its waters and resources.
Ms. Villar said the proclamation of the portion of the Benham Rise as a marine protected area in 2018 was just an initial step towards fulfilling the requirements for a full-fledged protected area.
The senator said the state of habitats and biodiversity in the area must be closely monitored as the PMRR is the first marine protected area in the Philippine EEZ where fishery operations are regular.
Regular expeditions must be conducted to establish long-term trends in the ecological integrity and biodiversity of Benham Rise, she added.
The Philippine Rise, located east of northern Philippines, is an area that has abundant marine species and untapped mineral resources and gas deposits.
In 2009, the Philippines filed a partial claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for Philippine Rise, which was approved three years after.
Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued an executive order in 2017 that renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan