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Creation of Philippine Rise Development Authority needed

PHILIPPINE RISE, Philippines – A team of algae and fisheries experts, ecologists, microbiologists and oceanographers from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), UP Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management, UP Marine Science Institute, and Oceana studied the biophysical composition of the shallowest portion of the 13-million hectare Philippine Rise underwater landmass east of Luzon, in a research expedition in 2016, as shown in this video screen grab. Image by OCEANA/UPLB.

Senator Win Gatchalian is championing the creation of the Philippine Rise Development Authority (PRDA), a coordinating, policymaking, and regulatory body which will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for everything concerning the resource-rich Philippine Rise.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, sponsored on Monday Senate Bill No. 2024, otherwise known as the Philippine Rise Development Authority Act.

SB 2024 provides for the creation of the PRDA, which will be tasked to promote, coordinate, and facilitate the exploration, study, development, and conservation of the Philippine Rise and its vast reserves of natural resources.

“This measure takes a responsible, proactive, and forward-looking approach to developing the natural resources of the Philippine Rise by establishing the institutional mechanism needed to facilitate a coordinated and integrated approach to optimizing the full potential of the Philippine Rise,” the senator said in his co-sponsorship speech.

“Lubos ang aking paniniwala na ang Philippine Rise ay magbibigay ng kasaganaan at maunlad na kabuhayan para sa susunod na henerasyon ng mga Pilipino — ito ay makakamit lamang kung mapangangalagaan ang ating likas-yaman,” he added.

The Philippine Rise – formerly known as the Benham Rise –  is a 24.4-million hectare underwater plateau located off the coast of Aurora province. It is more than double the size of Luzon, the Philippines’ biggest island.

11.4 million hectares of the Philippine Rise falls within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ claim on the remaining 13 million hectares of the underwater plateau as part of the country’s Extended Continental Shelf, thus bringing the entire Philippine Rise into the country’s jurisdiction.

Gatchalian, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, highlighted the exciting potential of the vast reserves of methane gas hydrates believed to be scattered throughout the Philippine Rise. Methane gas hydrates, composed of natural gas encased in ice and usually found deep under the ocean in the seabed, are “highly touted for their potential as the so-called ‘fuel of tomorrow’,” according to the senator.

“As the technology to exploit gas hydrates for commercial energy purposes develops over the next decade or two, the Philippines could eventually become an energy exporting powerhouse to rival even the most powerful oil-producing nations,” he added.

Under the PRDA Act, proposals, plans, programs, projects, or activities within the Philippine Rise region including, but not limited to, marine science research, exploration, and exploitation may only be carried out after securing a clearance from the agency.

The PRDA Board will be comprised of 15 board members handpicked from pertinent cabinet departments and technical agencies, with the President of the Philippines sitting as chairman of the Board.

“Patunay lamang na ang paglikha ng ahensya para sa Philippine Rise ay isang puhunan para sa napakalawak na benepisyo na mapakikinabangan ng bawat Pilipino sa hinaharap,” Gatchalian said.

SB 2024 was filed in substitution of bills authored by Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Joel Villanueva.