PH needs P5B to protect Benham Rise

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The government would need an initial P5 billion to kick-start efforts to protect and conserve the country’s vast marine resources at Benham Rise, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.

In a statement, Piñol said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources sought the amount as a last-minute addition to the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Agriculture, which supervises the agency.

He said the funding request was prompted by a directive from President Duterte “to protect and conserve the rich fishing area, which is now being poached by foreign fishing vessels.”

Piñol said the seed money would be used to establish a research and monitoring facility at the 15-hectare Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the 13-million-hectare Benham Rise.

He earlier said the planned facility would serve as a research station and advance command post that would help deal with “rampant cases of illegal fishing.”

Filipino scientists have said they have explored only about 1 percent of the area and more explorations were needed to determine whether petroleum and other minerals could be found in that underwater landmass off the northeastern coast of Luzon, which is now part of the country’s continental shelf.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara last year filed a bill to create the Benham Rise Development Authority that would integrate studies and policies on the  newest territory.

In a related development, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has urged governments to cut about $35 billion in subsidies to the fishing industry worldwide that contribute to the depletion of fishery resources and the high prices of fish.

Unctad legal affairs officer David Vivas said subsidies accounted for one-fifth of the $146 billion worth of global exports in fish and seafood products. –

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