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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Philippines Calls for the Immediate Conclusion of Agreement on Marine Biodiversity in the High Seas

Assistant Secretary Maria Angela A. Ponce urged UN member states to complete the final text of the agreement within the year given the dire state of the high seas.

 - The Philippines stressed the urgent need for a global regime to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction during the fourth Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The conference was held on 7-18 March 2022, in the United Nations Headquarters, New York.

According to the Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York and head of the Philippine Delegation, the continued exploitation of resources in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) threatens the whole marine ecosystem. He said that the international legally binding agreement on the BBNJ being negotiated under the United Nations auspices could bring marine areas beyond national jurisdiction under common management and monitoring. The instrument is expected to address marine environmental degradation and climate change-related impacts on marine biodiversity.

Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo leads the Philippine delegation at the fourth Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

In her statement at the conference, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office (MOAO) Maria Angela A. Ponce joined many delegations in supporting the immediate conclusion of the agreement as part of the global action to address pressures on the world’s oceans. Addressing the president of the Conference, Ambassador Rena Lee, Assistant Secretary Ponce expressed support “for the way forward” the president provided, particularly on the convening of IGC5 in August 2022 and looked forward to the conclusion of the agreement.

“The urgency of protecting our high seas and its resources is rising. 2022 is after all a special year, for it is the 40th Anniversary of UNCLOS, the foundation upon which this agreement is anchored. We hope that in the spirit of that, we will be able, in August, to reach convergence on all points and come to a final text,” Assistant Secretary Ponce said.

The Philippine delegation to the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction is composed of officials from the DFA, DENR, and DA.

In the course of the negotiations, the Philippines underlined the principle of the common heritage of mankind to guide the new legal regime for BBNJ and stressed the importance of giving due regard to the rights and jurisdiction of adjacent coastal States. The Philippines highlighted the special recognition that must be accorded to archipelagic States. The unique geography of the Philippines as an archipelagic State makes the country entirely dependent on the sea, and the country’s ecosystem is affected by changes in the larger ocean ecology. Thus, preferential treatment, such as access to capacity building and transfer of marine technology, must be taken into consideration by the instrument.

The Philippine delegation was composed of representatives from the Department of Foreign of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), DA – Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), DENR – Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), and DENR – Environment Management Bureau (EMB).


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