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Meeting looks at continental shelf claims

By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR (Palau Horizon, Mar. 23, 2009) - Palau and the Philippines held consultation talks yesterday regarding the continental shelf.

A delegation from the Philippines met with the members of the Technical Working Group of Palau for exchange of information regarding the respective countries submission for extended continental shelves (ECS) before the United Nations Committee on the Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS).

Under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a coastal State can claim for an ECS beyond the 200 NM and up to 350 NM from its baseline provided it submits scientific and technical data supporting such claim before the UN CLCS.

The deadline for the submission of such scientific and technical data for ECS claim is May 13, 2009.

The United Nations defines the continental shelf as the "the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea" up to 200 nautical miles from the archipelagic baseline.

A continental shelf that goes beyond 200 nautical miles is called the extended continental shelf. Archipelagic states like the Philippines may claim an extended continental shelf of up to 350 nautical miles from the baseline.

Philippines’ extended continental shelf overlaps with those of seven of its neighbors: Japan, China, Vietnam, Taiwan Malaysia , Indonesia and Palau.

The Philippine Delegation was led by Minerva Jean Falcon, Head of the Philippine Panel for the ECS and Director of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).The other members of the Philippine Panel were Henry S. Bensurto Jr., Secretary General of the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs (CMOA) Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Ana Placida Espina and Ronald Mantaring of the CMOA Secretariat-DFA.

The Palau ECS Panel, on the other hand, was chaired by Mr. Victorio Uherbelau, Presidential Assistant for International Legislative Affairs. With him were Mr. David Idip, Jr., Program Manager of Palau Automated Land and Resource Information System (PALARIS), Mr. Jeff Tkel, Information Systems Administrator, and Mr. Anthony Mikel, Jr. of the Office of PALARIS.

The UN body, however, will not rule on a claim if it involves disputed territory.

If an agreement is reached in border talks, then the Philippines could either submit unilaterally or jointly with the country concerned.

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