15 May 2019, Quezon City — Today marks the first anniversary of Presidential Proclamation No. 489 declaring a portion of the Philippine Rise within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippine Sea, particularly Benham Bank, as Marine Resource Reserve under the Republic Act No. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS) of 1992, to be known as the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve (PRMRR), signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), along with other partner agencies, has been pushing for the declaration of Benham Rise as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) since 2016. The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) also takes the lead in conducting efforts on drafting the Management Framework for the sustainable use of resources in Philippine Rise.
Concurrent with the proclamation, a Research Expedition was conducted under the Project Securing the Eastern Corridor: Understanding the resiliency of Reef Environments in the Philippine Rise Region (SECURE Philippine Rise) last May 9 to 27, 2018, led by the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) and DENR-BMB. This further strengthened the claim for PH Rise to become a legislated MPA.
Interim PRMRR Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) meetings have already been conducted last September and October 2018. Given that the PRMRR is of national concern, the Board will be composed of National Government Agencies, Non-Government Organizations, and Academic Research Institutions.
This year, a series of activities is planned out in order to address the importance of protecting and managing PRMRR. SECURE PH Rise is currently conducting the second leg of the research expedition, surveying Aurora and Isabela, along with an additional assessment in the Benham Bank. The PRMRR Management Plan, which encompasses its unique status as both a Special Fisheries Management Area and a Protected Area are currently being drafted, with inputs coming from different agencies concerned and stakeholders. This will be presented during the next interim PAMB Meeting this July.