For 2018 National Budget

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an agency under the Department of Agriculture, is seeking the inclusion of an initial budget of P5-B for the protection and conservation of the Philippine Rise, formerly known as the Benham Rise, a 25-million hectare shallow continental shelf east of the main island of Luzon.

The proposed P5-B budget for the Philippine Rise was submitted yesterday to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) during the technical committee hearing on the DAF budgetary requirements for 2018.

The proposed funding was a last minute addition to the DAF Budgetary Proposals as a result of the directive of President Rody Duterte for government to protect and conserve the rich fishing area which is now being poached by foreign fishing vessels.

The proposal came following the Philippine Rise Expedition which I personally led from May 5 to 7 to explore what could be done to protect and conserve the coveted fishing grounds.

The initial budget will be used to start efforts to establish a research and monitoring facility in the Benham Bank, a 15,000-hectare area in the middle of the Philippine Rise which at a depth of 50-meters is considered as the shallowest portion of the Rise.

The facility, which will be designed based on the recommendations of engineers and scientists, will also serve as a "refuge" area of Coast Guard vessels and Filipino fishing vessels.

It will be designed to allow helicopters to land and also as the take-off base of long-flying drones to monitor the area.

In the proposal I submitted to President Duterte and the Cabinet on May 8, the acquisition of air assets such as patrol helicopters and long-flying drones was also included.

President Duterte approved the proposals and directed the DAF to work with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Dept. of National Defense to initially conduct reconnaissance and patrol missions in the area.
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