By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

FORMAL CLAIM. DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Marshall Louis Alferez (3rd from left) and Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in New York Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo (2nd from left) make the West Philippine Sea submission at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on June 14, 2024 (New York time). The Philippines formally asked the United Nations to register its extended continental shelf in the Western Palawan region in the West Philippine Sea. (Photo courtesy of DFA)

MANILA – The Philippines has formally asked the United Nations (UN) to register its extended continental shelf (ECS) in the Western Palawan region in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Saturday.

The submission of information at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) was made through the Philippine Mission to the UN in New York on June 14 (New York time).

This is the second time the Philippines has registered an ECS entitlement. In 2012, the CLCS validated its partial submission on the Philippine Rise, resulting in an additional 135,506 square kilometers of seabed area for the country.

In a statement, DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Marshall Louis Alferez said this submission is a declaration not only of the Philippines’ maritime entitlements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) but also of Manila’s commitment to the responsible application of its processes.

This would also help secure the Philippines’ sovereign rights and maritime jurisdictions in the West Philippine Sea, Alferez said, noting that the 2016 Arbitral Ruling confirmed the country’s maritime entitlements and rejected those that exceeded geographic and substantive limits under UNCLOS.

“Incidents in the waters tend to overshadow the importance of what lies beneath,” he said.

“The seabed and the subsoil extending from our archipelago up to the maximum extent allowed by UNCLOS hold significant potential resources that will benefit our nation and our people for generations to come. Today, we secure our future by making a manifestation of our exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources in our ECS entitlement.”

Alferez, meanwhile, clarified that the submission does not prejudice discussions with relevant coastal States that may have legitimate ECS claims measured from their respective lawful baselines under UNCLOS.

“We consider our submission as a step in discussing delimitation matters and other forms of cooperation moving forward. What is important is the Philippines puts on record the maximum extent of our entitlement,” he said.

Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in New York Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo has also expressed optimism this submission would reinvigorate the efforts of States “to demonstrate their readiness to pursue UNCLOS processes in the determination of maritime entitlements and promote a rules-based international order.”

In its Philippine Rise submission in 2009, the country stated that it reserved the right to make submissions in other areas in the future.

Under Article 76 of the UNCLOS, a coastal State such as the Philippines is entitled to establish the outer limits of its continental shelf comprising the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas extending beyond 200 nautical miles (NM) but not to exceed 350 NM from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

The National Mapping and Resource Information Agency (NAMRIA) led the Extended Continental Shelf Technical Working Group (ECS-TWG) that worked on the submission for more than a decade and a half.

NAMRIA Administrator Peter Tiangco welcomed the official ECS submission and thanked the ECS-TWG for their work in gathering and processing data on geodetic and hydrographic information, and geophysical and geological information to substantiate the submission.

The first submission was also undertaken by the ECS-TWG, an inter-agency body composed of technical, legal, diplomatic, political, and law enforcement experts from several Philippine offices and agencies, among them NAMRIA, DFA, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, National Security Council, Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Mines and Geosciences Bureau, University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, the former National Coast Watch Council Secretariat, Department of National Defense, Office of the Solicitor General, and Philippine Coast Guard. (PNA)