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The Philippine Rise is to be designated as a protected area under a bill.

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Rufus Rodriguez, a representative from Cagayan de Oro City, has asked Congress to approve a bill that would designate a significant portion of the Philippine Rise, a massive undersea region east of Luzon, as a protected area so that it might be managed and exploited for its marine resources.

Rodriguez suggested in House Bill (HB) No. 5687 that the Benham Bank area and its surrounding waters be classified as a protected area under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Law. This area would be named as the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve (PRMRR).

The location of Benham Bank, which covers 352,390 hectares, is shown by HB 5687. It is estimated that the Philippine Rise covers more than 24 million hectares.

The majority of the Philippine Rise, according to Rodriguez, including Benham Bank, is located inside the nation’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

While the undersea region is between 3,500 and 3,500 meters below the surface of the ocean, the tallest seamount, Benham Bank, is only between 48 and 70 meters below the surface.

The proposed protected marine resource reserve, together with its varied ecosystems and fish communities, were found in 2014 by an all-Filipino team of study specialists, he claimed.

“Filipinos actually engage in fishing activities in the area,” said Rodriguez. “However, to ensure the sustainability of the resources there, the status of its habitats and biodiversity must be continuously monitored.”

For both current and future generations of Filipinos, he said, “monitoring and maintaining the high biodiversity and nearly pristine habitats in the PRMRR will contribute to sustainable fisheries productivity and ecosystem services.”

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are currently monitoring the area to protect Filipino fishermen and enforce fisheries rules, he said.

In addition to Benham Bank being declared a protected area, he said that his law will give these organizations more funding.

He claimed that approving the bill would demonstrate the Philippines’ control over the waterways and its resources.

A Philippine Rise Marine Resource Protected Area Management Board would be established under the proposal as the decision-making body for the administration of Benham Bank.

The chairpersons of the Senate and House natural resources committees, the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and representatives from BFAR, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of National Defense-Office of Civil Defense, the PNP Maritime Group, the National Security Council, and the National C

The board would also include one person from the private fishing industry, four from academic institutions, and four from non-governmental organizations recognized by the DENR.

The proposed protected area is subject to a number of prohibited activities listed in the bill, including poaching, the disposal of toxic waste, the use of damaging equipment, and impeding law enforcement.

Penalties of up to PHP5 million in fines and up to six years in prison are suggested for violators.

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