Philippines-France relations

Philippines and France commit to protect oceans, ratify High Seas Treaty

Iya Gozum

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Philippines and France commit to protect oceans, ratify High Seas Treaty

LOGO. French ambassador to Manila Marie Fontanel presents the visual identity of the Blue Nations initiative on Wednesday, June 5.

With the Blue Nations initiative, the two countries build momentum ahead of the 2025 United Nations Ocean Conference

MANILA, Philippines – The French and Philippine governments sought to further deepen bilateral ties and strengthen maritime cooperation and ocean conservation with their latest joint initiative, “Blue Nations,” launched on Wednesday, June 5.

The initiative that brings together the two nations would lead up to the 2025 United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC), which will be held in Nice in Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur, France.

Among the objectives of the initiative ahead of UNOC are the entry into force of the BBNJ Treaty and the adoption of separate treaties on plastic pollution and illegal fishing.

The BBNJ Treaty, which seeks to conserve marine resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction, was adopted on June 19, 2023. It would enter into force when 60 parties ratify it.

Only seven signatories have ratified the BBNJ treaty so far; France and the Philippines have yet to ratify the treaty.

Meanwhile, countries and civil society representatives are set to meet for a final summit later this year in Busan, South Korea, for a global treaty on plastic pollution. The said treaty, if adopted, could be the most significant climate deal since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga affirmed the Philippines’ support for UNOC, which would be co-hosted by France and Costa Rica.

“The ocean is central to global climate regulation and is equally the bedrock of the world’s economy,” said Loyzaga.

“The relationship between civilizations and the ocean is a profound and intimate relationship, with over half of our cities and municipalities lying within coastal areas, with seafood accounting at almost half of Filipinos’ animal protein intake dependent on the sea.”

Two maritime nations

French Ambassador to Manila Marie Fontanel underscored the similarities of both nations when it came to their commitment to environmental protection and international law.

“We thus share the responsibility of ensuring the protection of those ecosystems which are vital for the health of the ocean, and hence for the climate,” Fontanel said.

The French ambassador also emphasized the countries’ adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Fontanel recalled President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s address at the Shangri-La Dialogue “on the importance of confronting multilateralism and the Philippines’ efforts in building bridges on issues ranging from climate action to sustainable development or equitable global health coordination.”

The Philippines and France rank third and fourth, respectively, on the list of countries with the biggest coral reef covers.

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Indo-Pacific, France’s priority

The Indo-Pacific region is a priority for France, where the European country sees “profound strategic changes” marked by “transnational threats, proliferation crises, and security consequences due to climate change,” according to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs,

The ministry added that the region is home to 2 million French nationals, 1.65 million of whom are in French territories. 93% of France’s exclusive economic zone is within the Indo-Pacific.

European nations hold stakes in the South China Sea, one of the Philippines’ main concerns, as 30% of trade between Asia and Europe goes through the contested waterway.

Fontanel said they are targeting to build up maritime dialogue by October 2024 and present a policy brief on the restoration and protection of marine protected areas by April 2025.

Civil society will be part of the initiative, too, Fontanel said. Specified are the Save Palawan Seas Foundation, Sustainable Small Islands Initiative, Philippine Sulubbai Foundation, and People and the Sea in Cebu. –

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.