MANILA - The Philippine government will roll out its plan of constructing its research and monitoring facility in the Philippine Rise next year, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said Thursday.
Previously called the Benham Rise, the resource-rich undersea plateau off the Philippines' Pacific coast will be developed using the P4-billion additional funds the Department of Agriculture proposed in the 2018 budget.
The amount will cover the construction of facilities and the expenses for the feasibility studies and purchase of equipment such as drones, according to Piñol.
In a proposal to the President, DA plans to build a rig-like facility in Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the Philippine Rise which is part of the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
"Dun namin ilalagay ang research station. It will accommodate our researchers. Magkakaroon ng helipad, magkakaroon ng docking area for our ships. Parang advanced command post for research and monitoring," he said.
Piñol said the facility reinforces the Philippines' claim to 11.4-million hectares of the Philippine Rise, which is a part of the country's EEZ.
Meanwhile, the Philippines only has claims on the seabed of the remaining 13.5 million hectares, which was declared as part of the country's extended continental shelf.
"[This is] to show that we are able to protect the Philippine Rise from exploitation of other people," said Piñol.
"If the surveys [of other countries] are being done outside the Philippine EEZ, we really have nothing to show na dapat natin silang pigilan. 'Yung atin lang, wag na silang pumasok sa ating area."
Piñol has earlier proposed for the declaration of the Philippine Rise as a food resource protected area. The government plans to tap this part of the ocean's rich and vast aquatic resources for sustainable food production.