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Agenda item 79 at the General Assembly– (a) Oceans and the law of the sea, and (b) Sustainable fisheries

Tuesday, 08 December 2015
Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre
New York



79 – (a) Oceans and the law of the sea, and (b) Sustainable fisheries,

including through the 1995 Agreement for the implementation of the Provisions

of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks

and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments


Tuesday, 08 December 2015, 10am, UNGA Plenary Hall



Thank you, Mr. President.


The Philippines appreciates the commitment and dedication of Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago and Ms Alice Revell of New Zealand for again coordinating, respectively, our annual resolutions on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and on Sustainable Fisheries.


Taken together, these twin resolutions are probably the most comprehensive subject that the General Assembly considers on an annual basis. This is not surprising, when we recall that water covers over two-thirds of our planet’s surface, and that one-half of that surface is high seas, beyond the jurisdiction of any state. This reality informs Goal 14 of our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, binding us to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.


The Philippines is pleased to co-sponsor our resolution on Sustainable Fisheries. It reaffirms our Rio + 20 commitments to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; to eliminate subsidies that contribute to such fishing and over-capacity; and to enhance actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts.


The Philippines is committed to the conservation and optimum utilization of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone, and the management of those stocks based on the precautionary approach and the best available scientific information.


Last year, the Philippines became the 82nd State Party to the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement. We look forward to participating in the resumed Review Conference on the Agreement in May next year.


Mr. President, sustained global cooperation on ocean matters is paramount. The oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the planet’s ecosystem, and are thus critical to sustaining it.


The draft resolution builds on previous years’ resolutions in articulating our deepening concern over the continued threat of human activity on marine environments and biodiversity. It contributes to a rules-based international regime. It reaffirms our Rio + 20 commitments to improve our understanding of the adverse impact of climate change on oceans and seas. Science has begun to give us proof of the linkage. A painful and tragic reminder for my country is Typhoon Haiyan two years ago.  Like many, at this 11th hour, we hope for a positive outcome from the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris.


We must now take action to address marine pollution including marine debris which compromise the health of the oceans and of marine biodiversity. We need to neutralize if not reverse the adverse economic, social and environmental impacts of the physical alteration and destruction of marine habitats that might result from land-based and coastal development activities. The Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, which is cited in paragraph 199 of the resolution, is very instructive in this regard.


The Philippines is fully committed to maritime safety and security, and to the fight against piracy. The 2010 Manila amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, is consistent with this commitment.


Mr. President, UNCLOS stands the test of time. We reiterate the call on all States that have not yet done so, to ratify UNCLOS and contribute to its universality.


On the 70th anniversary of the UN this year, we reaffirm our commitment to and advocacy of the rule of law. International law is the great equalizer among states. It allows small countries to stand on an equal footing with more powerful states. This should be the case for the multilateral treaty process, especially UNCLOS, our constitution for the oceans and seas.    


The Philippines is fulfilling its solemn duty to settle international disputes peacefully. As many of you very well know, the arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII to UNCLOS, as requested by the Philippines, found in its 29 October award that it has jurisdiction to hear the Philippines’ case. Last 30 November, the tribunal concluded its hearings on the merits phase.


We believe that clarifying maritime entitlements will ultimately benefit everyone. We initiated this arbitration process to clarify our rights within our exclusive economic zone, specifically our fishing rights, rights to resources and rights to enforce our laws within our EEZ. It will also help ensure peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. This arbitration will also be instructive for other States to consider the dispute settlement mechanisms under UNCLOS as an option for resolving disputes in a peaceful manner.


However, the artificial island building on previously uninhabited reefs in order to change the status quo in the South China Sea has raised alarm and drawn protests from the other concerned countries including neighbors in the region. These illegal construction activities not only undermine regional stability and the rule of law; it has inflicted massive and disastrous environmental damage on one of the most diverse marine environments in the world.


The tribunal has now entered into deliberations. It is not just the fate of the Philippines that now rests in their just and capable hands, but also of our region, and of UNCLOS itself. We are confident that the tribunal will interpret and apply the law in a way that produces a truly just solution, a solution that will genuinely promote peace, security and good neighborliness in our region.


Thank you, Mr. President.