Philippines, Indonesia eye undersea boundary
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to discuss a possible boundary in their overlapping portions of the continental shelf, an undersea mass often exploited for mineral resources, in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.
The two countries formalized on Friday, October 10, the Joint Statement between the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Indonesia Concerning the Delimitation of the Continental Shelf Boundary, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa signed the statement in front of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The signing was held in the Bali International Convention Center as Aquino was in Indonesia to co-chair the 7th Bali Democracy Forum, the DFA said in a statement Wednesday, October 15.
“These continuing cooperative actions on delimitation of boundaries show our long-standing good relations with Indonesia, as well as the adherence of our two nations to a rules-based regime wherein countries settle disputes on the basis of respect, equality, and amity,” Del Rosario said.
The statement came nearly 5 months after the Philippines and Indonesia sealed a historic maritime deal.
Experts hailed the previous agreement as a model in settling maritime disputes, as the Philippines is embroiled in a dispute with China over the South China Sea.
Deal 'a positive example'
In that historic deal in May, the two countries agreed to draw a boundary between their overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea. This was seen to help fishermen in the long run.
The EEZ, after all, is an area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines, or edges, within which the state has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others.
It was the Philippines' first maritime boundary treaty.
Having settled the overlapping EEZs in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea, the two countries now turn to their overlapping portions of the continental shelf in the same area.
The continental shelf is an area rich in living and non-living resources like minerals and gas.
Based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the continental shelf comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas 200 NM from a state's baselines.
An example of a continental shelf is the 13-million hectare Benham Rise, the newest part of the Philippines, which is believed to contain steel-producing minerals and natural gas. – Rappler.com