Saving tuna-rich Philippine Rise seen to boost PH food security

MANILA -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for the conservation of Philippine Rise, an undersea region east of Luzon, for it to be a rich food source for Filipinos.

"We are advocating the declaration of the Philippine Rise as a Protected Food Supply Exclusive Zone," Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol said in his keynote speech at the 14th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) on Sunday.

Formerly known as the Benham Rise, the Philippine Rise is a 24.4 million hectare marine paradise that lies under the migration path of important tuna species including the Pacific Bluefin tuna.

PiAol noted that tuna, said to be abundant at Philippine Rise, is a top Philippine export commodity with a collective volume of 104,984 metric tons for a variety of fresh, chilled, frozen, smoked, dried, and canned products valued at USD296 million.

"This is the reason why like the rest of the region, tuna fishing means a great deal to the Philippines. It is vital not only in the country's continuous economic development, but also in providing food and livelihood to millions of Filipinos," the agricultural secretary said.

PiAol believes conservation will enhance Philippine Rise's potential of helping the country achieve food security since this measure promotes efficient use of natural resources to meet present and future needs.

"Whatever we do there will take into consideration conservation," he said in a media conference for the international fish conservation conference hosted by the Philippines at the Philippine International Convention Center this week.

Conservation will help ensure availability of Philippine Rise's resources for needs of future generations, he said.

He said if sustainably managed, Philippine Rise would provide generations of Filipinos with unquantifiable food.

"We must ensure there'll be enough food for Filipinos today and in the future," he said.

The Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is hosting the WCPFC regular session this week.

WCPFC is a regional fisheries management organization governing fishing activities -- particularly those for tuna and whale sharks -- in international waters.

"The commission passes conservation and management measures aimed at curbing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing," said BFAR information chief Nazario Briguera.

Source: Philippine News Agency