Duterte declares Philippine Rise a marine protected area

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

CASIGURAN, Aurora --- President Duterte has signed a Presidential Proclamation formally declaring portions of the Philippine Rise as marine protected areas (MPAs), a year after changing its name from Benham Rise.

In an attempt to assert the Philippines' ownership over the underwater plateau, President Duterte signed the proclamation as he led the send-off ceremony for the all-Filipino scientists who will be conducting a six-month Maritime Science Research (MSR) at the Philippine Rise.

A civilian diver points the location of Philippine Rise and Benham bank at Casiguran Pier on Tuesday.  (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN) A civilian diver points the location of Philippine Rise and Benham bank at Casiguran Pier on Tuesday.
(Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

An MPA reduces human interaction with resources, thereby allowing the resources to replenish. Although MPAs cannot address all problems in the marine resources, they help reduce some anthropogenic-related problems and may enhance the resiliency of marine stressors.

According to the Philippine Science Letters, in the Philippines, 1,620 locally managed MPAs have been established as of 2011.

The signing and send-off ceremonies took place a year after Benham Rise was renamed to Philippine Rise through the issuance of Executive Order (EO) no. 25 on May 16, 2017.

The President, while on board the BRP Davao Del Sur, assured the Filipino scientists that the government will fully support them in their mission to conduct mapping, surveys, biological investigations and assessment of the coral reef and fisheries stock in the area until November.

"Today, we send off our team of talented and competent Filipino scientists who will undertake the Coordinated National Marine Scientific Research Initiatives and Related Activities or CONMIRA in the waters above the Philippine Rise," he said.

"These activities will be vital the protection and management of the Philippine Rise and its vast resources. I have complete faith in the capabilities of our world-class scientists and I recognize the need to provide them with the necessary means to fulfill your mandate," he added.

'It is ours'

President Duterte in his speech insisted that the Philippines owns the Philippine Rise and that he is only copying China's formula in asserting the country's rights.

"Philippine Rise is ours. Basta amin 'yun (That is ours no matter what)," Duterte said.

"Ngayon, ang Intsik na formula ginamit ko rin dito sa atin. Sabi ko rin dito sa atin (Now, I used the same Chinese formula here. I said), I did not make any distinction between sovereign rights and sovereign property," he added.

"Alam niyo naman dito agawan ng teritoryo. 'Pag mahina ka, ay maiwanan ka talaga (You know that in this world, we are going after territories. If you are weak, you will be left behind)," he continued.