Fishermen urged to ‘own’ Benham Rise
The fisheries bureau yesterday called for increased fishing activities in Benham Rise, saying the responsible use of the “vast and diverse marine resources” there was the best evidence of ownership and control.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said this amid the ongoing territorial tensions in the West Philippine Sea.
Agriculture Undersecretary Asis G. Perez, who is also BFAR director, said in a statement the 13-million hectare underwater frontier off the coast of Aurora and Isabela—bigger than Luzon at 10.5 million hectares—was a potential fisheries hotspot.
In 2012, three years after Malacañang filed a claim at the United Nations, the UN recognized Benham Rise as the property of the Philippines. The following year, the BFAR started a series of annual expeditions to Benham Rise, mainly to implement the law of the sea and to acknowledge that the area was within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Perez said the UN’s nod gave the Philippines full ownership of Benham Rise as part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf.
“The actual evidence of ownership is utilization and full control of the Benham Rise,” Perez said.
BFAR has a budget of P63.93 million this year meant to “accelerate deployment of support structures and technologies for the optimum utilization of Benham Rise.”
“Commercial fishing vessels would be provided with technical assistance and information to enable them to fish the area,” the agency added.