Senator Cynthia Villar pushed for the protection of the Philippine Rise as the latest addition to Philippine territory.
The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and on Agriculture and Food, said “the territory of the Philippines nearly doubled in size with the addition of resource-rich waters and spawning ground of assorted fish species.”
“That there is a vast amount of natural resources there and that those resources can adequately provide the food requirements of Filipinos are just two very important reasons why we need to defend and protect the Philippine Rise, and why I support the call of Oceana and other concerned groups for its immediate protection,” Villar said.
The veteran legislator also said that recent developments such as President Duterte’s order to rename it as Philippine Rise and the planned actions of establishing a permanent facility are clear efforts to assert our territorial rights at Philippine Rise.
“The protection of Philippine Rise stresses the need to protect the oceans, the source of wild catch, given the experts’ prediction that if oceans are not given time to recover from rampant illegal fishing and destruction of marine habitat, they could become ‘virtual deserts’ by 2050,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
Originally called Benham Rise, the Philippine Rise is a 24.4-million hectare undersea region located east of Luzon. Executive Order No. 25 issued on May 16, 2017, states that the region is located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as well as the outer limits of the continental shelf in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued on April 12, 2012.
To drum up support for the protection of the new territory, Villar, together with Senators Win Gatchalian and Migz Zubiri, and Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president, Oceana Philippines, led the opening of an exhibit on the Philippine Rise at the Senate.
The event also included a 20-minute film showing on the expedition done at Benham Bank, the shallowest part of the undersea feature.
The expedition was composed of a team of scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, University of the Philippine Marine Biological Society and Oceana. The team documented a vast coral reef ecosystem and at least 170 fish species, including tiger sharks and tuna. They also documented the highest recorded coral coverage in the country.