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Today, we send off our team of talented and competent Filipino scientists who will undertake the Coordinated National Marine Scientific Research Initiatives and Related Activities or CONMIRA in the waters above the Philippine Rise. I join the Filipino people in wishing you all the best as you embark on your mission to conduct mapping, surveys, biological investigations and assessment of the coral reef and fisheries stock in the area until November. These activities will be vital [in] the protection and management of the Philippine Rise and its vast resources. I have complete faith in the capabilities of our world class scientists and I recognize the need to provide them with the necessary means to fulfill your mandate. Siguro tig-isang barko kayo ma’am, okay na? Tig-isang barko talaga. (Maybe one (1) boat is okey for each one of you Mam, is that okey? One (1) boat each really)”. – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, May 15, 2018.

It was a proud Filipino moment especially for Filipino scientists and researchers as President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aboard BRP Davao del Sur on May 15, 2018 assured total support to the all-Filipino team of marine scientists and researchers who will conduct biological investigation and assessment of the vast natural bounties and rich resources of the Philippine Rise, as he also led the commemoration of the renaming of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise under Executive Order No. 25 signed on May 16, 2017. Further, the President declared that around “50,000 hectares of the Philippine Rise shall become a Strict Protection Zone limited to scientific studies --- at this time only Filipinos, while more than [300,000] hectares shall be designated as a Special Fisheries Management Area”.

President Duterte signs Proclamation No. 489, s. 2018 declaring a portion of the Philippine Rise situated within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippine Sea, North Eastern coast of Luzon Island as Marine Resource Reserve pursuant to Republic Act (RA) no. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, to be known as the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve.

About 50 marine scientists and researchers from government agencies and universities who will be part of the marine scientific research (MSR) initiatives were welcomed by Lt. General Emmanuel B. Salamat, Commander of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) while Director-General and National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon presented them to the President. Notably, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its councils – National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) and Philippine Council for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) - is part of the contingent. The others are from the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), UP-Los Banos, UP-Miag-ao, Mindanao State University (MSU), Tawi-Tawi, Ateneo, DLSU, and UST. DOST Secretary Fortunato T. Dela Peña was one of the honored guests during the Philippine Rise Commemoration and Send-Off ceremonies. With pride, he congratulated the scientists and researchers being part of the all-Filipino team to conduct research with full support from the government.

 

Congratulations and a pat on the back for the scientists and researchers from DOST Secretary Fortunato T. Dela Peña. Photo shows Secretary Dela Peña congratulating Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., Chancellor of UPLB. Looking on are other officials with backs to camera while leftmost is Dr. Gil Jacinto, Professor at UP-MSI.

 

All together for Philippine Rise. DOST Secretary Fortunato T. dela Pena (in black jacket) poses with officials, other scientists and researchers showing positivity over the all-Filipino team that will explore the bounties of Philippine Rise. (From left) Dr. Mari-Ann M. Acedera, Director of the Marine Resources Research Division, PCAARRD; Dr. Melvin B. Carlos, Deputy Executive Director for Administration, Resource Management and Support Services, PCAARRD; Dr. Richard N. Mualil, MSU Tawi Tawi; Dr. Fernando P. Siringan, UP-MSI Director and Academician, National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST); Dr. Perry S. Ong, Professor, College of Science, UP Diliman; Professor Fortunato T. dela Pena, Secretary, DOST; Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Chancellor, UPLB;  Atty. Harry L. Roque, Presidential Spokesperson; Dr. Doralyn S. Dalisay, National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) Member Division V, University of San Agustin; and Dr. Fidel R. Nemenzo, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development (OVCRD), UP Diliman


Historic buoy casting and flag marker laying

On the second day of the event, BRP Davao del Sur sailed to the shallowest part of the Philippine Rise bank. Undersecretary Cardozo Luna of the Department of National Defense led the activities and reiterated the ownership of the resource-rich 13-million hectare underwater plateau by the Philippine government.

At the singing of the national anthem with a human flag formation at the BRP Davao del Sur deck, the first buoy was cast followed by the laying of a flag marker underneath the Philippine Rise. This was accompanied by sailing ships of the Philippine Navy Coastguard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) nearby as Philippine Air Force FA-50 fighter jets also made a fly-by. Accordingly, this is single largest coordinated mobilization of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force in recent years, possibly its first major operation in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

 

The DOST-NRCP personnel in yellow shirts participated in the human flag formation representing the 3 stars of the flag.


DOST-NRCP Member Scientists at Philippine Rise

There were three (3) DOST-NRCP Members who were at the Philippine Rise event.

DOST-NRCP enlisted its member and DOST Balik Scientist Dr. Doralyn Dalisay, a Marine Scientist from the University of San Agustin, Iloilo as part of the contingent to Philippine Rise. Dr. Dalisay is currently conducting a research on marine sediments in the NRCP-funded project entitled “Marine Sediment-Derived Actinobacteria: New Vista for Natural Products Discover in the Philippines,” a three-year program. In its first year, Dr. Dalisay has already discovered anti-microbial actinobacteria from marine sediments in the islands of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Occidental, and Panay which are essential in discovering new antibiotics.

At the Philippine Rise commemoration, Dr. Dalisay was interviewed by the media and she said that the vast resources underneath can be a source of new drugs, new antibiotics, new anti-cancer compounds, anti-dengue, and anti-malaria. “We could find something new here that we could exploit for drug discovery”, she emphasized.

 

Dr. Doralyn Dalisay, Marine Scientist from the University of San Agustin, Iloilo and DOST-NRCP Member (Division V) shares her project on marine sediments to media.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gil Jacinto representing UP-MSI, said that aside from the rich marine biodiversity, the importance of Philippine Rise is seen in fisheries, oceanography, and meteorology, and hoped for the continued support of the government in their research activities. “Research will not only be done in two years but decades for the future generation”, he added. Dr. Jacinto is an NRCP Member under the Division V Biological Sciences.

Dr. Clarita Carlos, who is currently a member of the NRCP Governing Board and Governmental, Educational and International Policies Division, was also an honored guest at the Philippine Rise event. She specializes in  Philippine defense policy, foreign policy/international politics, comparative politics, political psychology (political socialization, political violence, political leadership, terrorism), politics of environment, political theory/methodology and is the first female, civilian President of the National Defense College of the Philippines.

DOST-NRCP staff also participated in the 2-day activity and were part of the human flag formation, representing the 4 stars of the flag, namely: Ms. Maria Elena A. Talingdan, Ms. Beverly Mae Dela Cruz and NRCP member Dr. Doralyn Dalisay while Ms. Cecilia Baquireza joined the other participants. The National Security Council (NSC), through Director Renia Corocoto, directly invited marine scientists who are members of DOST-NRCP.

 

Philippine Rise: Atin ito! (It’s Ours!)

It was in 2012 when the United Nations (UN) awarded the then Benham Rise to the Philippines as an extension of its continental shelf. With the ruling, the country was granted “sovereign rights” over Benham Rise, which means the Philippines has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit resources here.

Philippine Rise: Atin Ito! reverberated in the banners, messages, exhibits and in the minds and hearts of all the scientists, researchers, representatives and volunteers during the 2-day event. As President Duterte said:

“Indeed, these developments would not have been possible without the efforts of our dedicated public servants, scientists and legal experts who worked together to bolster our claim over the Philippine Rise. When the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved our claim to the Philippine Rise a few years ago, we were not just granted access to the vast resources. We were also entrusted with the responsibility to protect it from abuse and misuse. Let us therefore explore this [new frontier] fully aware of our responsibility to [properly manage] and conserve its natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations of Filipinos. As we send off our experts to explore and discover what our seas have to offer, may we all have a renewed sense of commitment to promote the welfare of our people, safeguard our national interest, [and] assert our sovereign rights over our waters and all other areas within our jurisdiction”.

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