PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) fielded a technical and legal team to the 21st Maritime Boundaries Session in Sydney, Australia (“Sydney Session”), to join the regional discussions about maritime boundaries and continental shelf issues. The Sydney Session was organized by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Maritime Boundaries Consortium of Partners, including the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Geoscience Australia, the Australian Attorney General’s Department, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, GRID-Arendal/UNEP, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Union, the Government of the United Kingdom, and the University of Sydney.
The Sydney Session was instrumental in the delivery technical assistance to the Pacific Region towards a successful conclusion of member countries’ Maritime Boundaries negotiation, the signing of boundary delimitation treaties, and registering those treaties with the United Nations according to the requirements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and under the UN Charter.
The FSM is a recognized leader in the Pacific Region on Maritime Boundary issues, taking into consideration its successful completion in negotiating all the boundary delimitation treaties—individually with the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and with the United States of America. The FSM already filed its Maritime Boundaries with the United Nations—including the comprehensive list of geographical coordinates defining the country’s baselines, territorial sea, contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone—and the illustrative maps and relevant law and regulation that sanctioned these maritime zones. All the delimitation treaties were deposited with the United Nation’s Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) in accordance with the UNCLOS and with the UN Treaty Section pursuant to the UN Charter. The intention behind these deposits is to ensure that the FSM’s maritime zone remain fixed, stable, legally recognized under international law, and shall remain in perpetuity, notwithstanding the adverse effects of climate change-related sea-level rise. Assistant Attorney General Leonito Bacalando Jr. delivered a presentation during the Sydney Session on the topic of Preserving the Maritime Zones through the Deposit of Maritime Boundaries with the United Nations
according to the UNCLOS.
The Sydney Session also assisted the FSM and other Pacific countries in producing their Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) claims through the cooperative efforts among the Member Countries and the Consortium Partners. Among the successful ECS filings in the Pacific Region, the Ontong Java Plateau (OJP) joint submission by the FSM, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands represents the most successful and inspiring ECS claim covering a vast expanse of continental shelf that goes into the high sea pocket bounded by FSM, PNG, Nauru, and Solomon Islands. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), a special body established by the UNCLOS to examine ECS submissions, favorably recommended the OJP joint claim in 2018.
Other ECS submissions by the FSM consist of the North of Yap Area filed in April of 2022, the Eauripik Rise claim filed in 2013, and the Mussau Ridge preliminary information filed in 2009. An ECS claim—if favorably recommended by the CLCS—will become part of national jurisdiction subject to FSM laws and regulation. Its implication is that the exploration and exploitation of seabed resources (including minerals, oil, and gas) with respect to the ECS area are granted to the FSM.
During the Maritime Boundary Session in Sydney, the FSM team, comprised of Chief of Law Leonito Bacalando, Jr, and NORMA staff Alfred Lebehn and Dan Gilmete, conducted critical exchanges of views and discussions with the combined experts from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Geoscience Australia, Australian Attorney General’s Department/DFAT and other resource experts organized by the Consortium. The FSM Team also conducted bilateral exchanges with the United States technical team concerning cooperation on maritime boundaries, capacity building regarding ECS submissions, respect for customary international law principles and practices relevant to ECS claims, and the need for data acquisitions. It is to be recalled that the United States registered its no-objection notification in relation to the FSM’s ECS claim over the North of Yap Area lodged with the UN in April this year, and the notification was officially registered with the UN DOALOS.
The FSM Team also held technical consultations jointly and separately with the technical teams of PNG, Solomon Islands, and Palau to discuss about further cooperation as to the appropriate next steps in the process of securing the OJP claim, including a possible revised submission to be able to present better and more comprehensive scientific data and related areas of further cooperation.
President Panuelo expressed satisfaction on the progress of securing the maritime boundaries of the FSM and of enlarging further the territory of the Nation when it comes to continental shelf claims on the high seas area, most of which are now pending before the United Nations for diligent examination by recognized world experts.