FSI Conducts Multistakeholder Roundtable Discussion on the Philippine Rise

The Foreign Service Institute, in partnership with Oceana Philippines, held a roundtable discussion titled “After the Philippine Rise Proclamation: What’s Next?” on 19 June 2018 at the CMOAS Conference Hall, DFA Building, Pasay City.  The speakers were from the academe, government agencies, and non-government organizations. Mr. Daniel M. Ocampo, Campaign Manager at Oceana Philippines, served as moderator during the open forum.

Dr. Jay L. Batongbacal, Director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS), provided several recommendations for securing the country’s rights and resources in the Philippine Rise, including enhancing maritime domain awareness, gathering the honor and prestige in naming the undersea features of the Philippine Rise, strengthening capacity for law enforcement, identifying the timing and means by which the Philippines should leverage its management area jurisdiction, and developing a research agenda that also incorporates the use of technology.

Mr. Ocampo delivered a presentation prepared by Dr. Hildie Maria E. Nacorda, Assistant Professor at the UP Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management, on the biodiversity found in the Benham Bank from the expeditions conducted in 2014 and 2016. For future research on the Benham Bank, Dr. Nacorda suggested doing a taxonomic analysis of the collected samples; comparing the results with other reef areas in the northern Philippine Sea; integrating the data with oceanographic, plankton, and productivity data to shed light on ecosystem interconnectedness; and undertaking more expeditions to start up field experiments in the northern Philippine Sea.

Ms. Desiree Eve R. Maaño, Chief of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Section at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), presented the country’s initiatives on the Philippine Rise, including the development of a management plan, creation of a management board, and enactment of a legislative act on the Philippine Rise under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act or RA 7586. She stated that external discussions with relevant stakeholders will be conducted to ensure that the management plan is aligned with different biodiversity targets, and that it meets the needs of agencies and stakeholders.

Mr. Sammy A. Malvas, Assistant Director at the Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), shared his agency’s plans to continue its fisheries development efforts in the Philippine Rise, including payao deployment and livelihood support programs; strengthening collaboration with other government agencies, academic institutions, and civil society groups; and conducting more research, particularly oceanographic surveys.

For her part, Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice President of Oceana Philippines, highlighted the importance of strong collaboration among government agencies and civil society, including the private sector, in the protection and conservation of the Philippine Rise region. She stated that there is convergence of interests among government agencies and NGOs, thus, the latter should be seen as partners, rather than adversaries on issues such as marine environment protection.

During the open forum, resources available for the implementation of the Presidential Proclamation on the Philippine Rise were discussed. Various agencies shared their capabilities and planned upgrades to secure the protection of the Philippine Rise region. The discussions also raised the importance of incorporating the Philippine Rise in school curricula to help raise awareness on this significant aspect of Philippine maritime territory and biodiversity.