International Coastal Clean Up Summit Focuses on Benham Rise

Protect our seas was the general theme during the two-day international clean up summit held at Subic last September 28 and 29 aimed to raise awareness on issues related to national maritime and archipelagic concerns. The still vast and unexplored regions include the Benham Rise, also known as Philippine Rise. Not a lot of Filipinos are aware that the Philippine Rise is part of the extended continental shelf of the country which has vast potentials for new undiscovered underwater species and untapped natural resources. Among the guest speakers present is Ms. Marianne Saniano, a marine scientist.

Benham Rise

A technical diver collects sediment samples for fauna and flora analyses

Benham Rise Importance

Benham Rise or Philippine Rise was designated as a “protected food supply exclusive zone” by the Philippine government in May 2017. Mining and oil exploration is banned in the Benham Plateau as a protected area. On May 16, 2017, Philippine President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 renaming the region to Philippine Rise.

Benham Rise

Hallimeda is abundant in most parts of Benham Bank. This type of green algae calcifies and contributes to the substrate of the bank. © OCEANA/UPLB

Martitime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month

The President also recently signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring September as the Maritime  and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA MO).

“The Constitution demands the protection of the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,” says the Presidential Proclamation.

As part of the month-long MANA MO celebration, the House of Representatives and Oceana are staging a weeklong exhibit to highlight the wonders of Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the Philippine Rise, a 24.4-million hectare undersea territory which hosts some of the most pristine coral reefs in the country. The exhibit will run from 25 to 29 September at the Congress.

Benham Rise

Hallimeda is abundant in most parts of Benham Bank. This type of green algae calcifies and contributes to the substrate of the bank. © OCEANA/UPLB

Oceana Advocacy

In December 2016, 196 State parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Philippine Rise as an ecologically and biologically significant marine area and one of the only known spawning sites of the commercially valuable Pacific Bluefin Tuna. Oceana advocates for the protection of the area, starting with a declaration of Benham Rise as a no-take zone.

“As Earth’s second-largest archipelago, we are heartened to have the support of our congressional representatives and national and local champions to conserve our oceans and coasts,” explains Oceana Philippines Marine Scientist Marianne Pan-Saniano

The National Coast Watch Council Secretariat, Oceana and civil society organizations launched MANA MO in Malacañang last 4 September through an interactive exhibit on the Philippine Rise, talks, plus film screenings on various ocean issues. It was graced by the presence of NCWC Chair, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, NCWC Executive Director Undersecretary Jose Luis Alano, plus Oceana Philippines Vice-president Gloria Estenzo-Ramos

A shore cleanup was held in Zambales on 16 September organized by the International Coastal Cleanup Zambales, Lighthouse Marina Resort Legacy Foundation and allied groups, with an environmental summit slated from 28 to 29 September in Subic Bay.

Benham Rise

Plates of foliose corals look like terracesin the bank. This is a common sight on the bank and characteristic of mesophotic reefs, found at depths from 30 meters (100 feet) to 150 meters(492 feet). © OCEANA/UPLB

Oceana, Greenpeace, Green Research, Haribon, Roots Asia and other key allies are now pushing for the passage of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area (ENIPAS) Act, which will confer a greater degree of protection for 92 new protected areas in the country, while enhancing protection for existing parks.

“MANA MO is a call for everyone – from our lawmakers to coastal residents – to join hands and protect our natural heritage as citizens of an archipelagic and bio-diversity rich nation. As one, we should protect iconic places like Benham Bank and ensure that we will leave a living legacy for our children,” says Oceana Philippines Vice-president Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos.


Mesophotic zone from the Latin words, “meso”, i.e., mid- and “photos”, i.e., light, are found in depths from 30 meters (ca. 100 ft) down to 150 meters (492 feet). Even with low light penetrating this zone, corals and photosynthetic algae can still grow.© OCEANA/UPLB

International Coastal Clean Up Summit Philippines Organizers

The environmental summit was organized by the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, 111th Squadron, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, The Lighthouse Marina resort Legacy Foundation, National Solid Waste Management Council of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Coast Watch Secretariat.

The yearly coastal clean up project also had photo exhibit, summit and coastal clean-up activities.


Rence Chan

writer and contributor

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