House panel approves provisions of bill declaring resource-rich Philippine Rise or Benham Rise as Protected Area


The House Committee on Ways and Means on Monday approved the tax provisions of a bill declaring a portion of the Philippine Rise or the Benham Rise within the country’s exclusive economic zone as a marine resource reserve.

The committee approved Section 8 or the tax provision of the unnumbered substitute bill, which states that the powers and functions of the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to set fees and charges in accordance with the existing guidelines.

The committee also approved that all grants, bequests, endowments, donations and contributions made to the protected area (PA) fund to be used actually, directly, and exclusively by the protected area, shall be exempted from donor’s tax and shall be considered as allowance deductions from gross income for purposes of computing the taxable income of the donor in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.

The panel also said the Protected Area Superintendent, which under Protected Area Management Office, shall be primarily accountable to the PAMB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the management and operations of the protected area.

It also mandates the Protected Area Superintendent to collect and receive pertinent fees, charges, donations, and other income for the protected area. It said such fees, charges, donations, and other income collected or received shall be reported regularly to PAMB and the DENR.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, principal author of the bill, said experts recommended to declare a portion of the Philippine Rise as protected area with the category of marine resource reserve under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) “for us to take advantage of the natural resources therein.”

Benham Plateau or the Benham Rise, was officially renamed Philippine Rise by virtue of Executive Order  25 (Series of 2017) signed by President Duterte on May 16, 2017.

It is a 24 million hectare under sea region east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater at its shallowest point off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela. The area is solely claimed, as part of its continental shelf, by the Republic of the Philippines, which was confirmed by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 12, 2012.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal state’s exclusive economic zone extends 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from its continental shelf, while its extended continental shelf extends for another 278 kilometers (150 nautical miles). The UN now recognizes the Philippines’s claim and the country’s territory have increased to 43 million hectares from 30 million hectares.

The lawmaker, citing marine conservationists and experts in the field of marine biology and biodiversity, said Philippine Rise is a rare exception.

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