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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will conduct a two-day workshop aimed at developing a framework for the management of Benham Rise, the Philippines' resource-rich territory off the eastern coast of Luzon Island.

The workshop, slated for February 2-3 and organized by DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), will bring together policymakers and experts in a bid to come up with a policy framework for the protection and sustainable management of the undersea region.

The discussions will focus on resources in the region including biodiversity, fisheries, mineral, oil and gas; existing policies governing the area, and alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals and Philippine Development Plan, among others.

Resource persons include BMB officials led by Director Theresa Mundita Lim, who is expected to speak on the thrust towards the sustainable management of the Benham Rise, Dr. Vincent Hilomen on the general overview of the region, and Ms. Armida Andres on the framework’s alignment in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Philippine Development Plan.

Experts from the University of the Philippines are also expected to share their knowledge and expertise on the Benham Rise during the workshop. Leading them is Dr. Mario Aurelio of the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS), who will share the successful strides made by the government on claiming the region under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS; Atty. Jay Batongbakal of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea on existing policies governing the Benham Rise.

Dr. Cesar Villanoy of the UP-Marine Science Institute will make a presentation on the physical environment of Benham Rise while Dr. Hildie Nacorda of the UP-Los Baños in Laguna will tackle the biodiversity resources surveys made in the Benham Rise in 2014 and 2016.

Dr. Carlos Primo David, also of UP-NIGS, will present the mineral, oil and gas resources of the region, while Commodore Eduardo Gongona of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will talk on the fishery resources.

Benham Rise is claimed as the largest marine area of the country that remains relatively pristine. With the recent recognition of Benham Rise as part of the Philippines’ territory and extended continental shelf (ECS) granted by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2012, interest in utilization of Benham rise increased.

Development of a sound sustainable management framework for Benham Rise would give the Philippines opportunities to develop its marine scientific research capabilities, provide an anchor for mobilizing offshore resources and management in the eastern seaboard of Luzon, and establish the basis of Philippine control and management of seabed exploration activities in the EEZ, continental shelf, and extended continental shelf.

The recognition of the Philippine jurisdiction over the Benham Rise Region is the Philippines’ first successful validation of a claim in accord with the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). It is the first major expansion of the Philippines’ maritime boundaries since the late 1970s when it declared its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The waters above the ECS are considered as high seas.

With the UN decision, the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory increased from 30 million hectares to 43 million hectares. ###

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