Philippines backs proposed treaty to protect marine biodiversity

The proposed agreement is expected to provide for environmental impact assessments, mandate the sharing of marine genetic resources among countries, and support transferring of marine technology to developing nations

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has supported calls to finalize a landmark agreement on the management and preservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction or the high seas, which comprised over 60% of the world’s oceans.

In a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine government stressed the “urgent need” for the proposed treaty as pressure builds to protect ocean life from the impacts of climate change, overfishing, and other threats.

During a recent two-week meeting on the issue, countries gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York failed to finalize a legally binding treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine life in the high seas. The latest meeting – delayed by the pandemic – was set to be the fourth and final one, though another session has been scheduled for August this year.

Supporting the measure, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in New York Ambassador Enrique Manalo said the exploitation of resources in the high seas threatened the whole marine ecosystem. An agreement to protect biodiversity in these waters, he added, could have these areas placed under management and monitoring.

Countries seek to craft a legally binding treaty to preserve and protect marine biodiversity in the high seas as international law currently does not address this. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – key in setting rules in ocean governance and regulating activity in these areas – promotes the protection of oceans, but currently does not provide a means to develop and implement conservation measures.

“The instrument is expected to address marine environmental degradation and climate change-related impacts on marine biodiversity,” the DFA said.

Under the proposed strategy, marine protect areas will be created where activities like fishing will be off-limits or only “limited exploitation” will be allowed, Bloomberg Green reported. These areas, which are connected to marine reserves in territorial waters will also provide protection for migratory species like whales and tuna.

The agreement will also provide for environmental impact assessments, mandate the sharing of marine genetic resources among countries, and support the transferring of marine technology to developing nations.

The Philippines viewed the transfer of marine technology to be among key issues, which “must be taken into consideration” by the proposed treaty. It also backed the “special recognition that must be accorded to archipelagic states” and importance of acknowledging the rights of coastal states.

“The unique geography of the Philippines as an archipelagic state makes the country entirely dependent on the sea, and the country’s ecosystem has been affected by changes in the larger ocean ecology,” the DFA said.

DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office Maria Angela Ponce expressed optimism the treaty could be finalized this year, as the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS.

To adopt the strategy, 193 countries must reach a consensus on its text and terms. Experts have backed the proposed treaty, with some calling it a “game changer” in preserving marine biodiversity. – Rappler.com

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