By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Federated States of Micronesia has staked a claim on an extended continental shelf located in the north of Yap, portions of which are also being claimed by Palau and Japan.
The disputed territory covers a high-sea area of approximately 188,000 sq.km. (72,500 sq,mi.), which is likely rich in natural resources.
The FSM government said it sought to secure its partial claim on the area to ensure that it is protected from deep-sea mining and other destructive activity that might jeopardize any economic benefits it might yield for the Pacific nation.
FSM Justice Secretary Joses R. Gallen Sr. officially filed FSM’s claim with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, invoking Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
“Without this claim being made by the FSM, the rare opportunity to increase the FSM’s seabed territory under the UNCLOS might be lost permanently,” FSM President David Panuelo said in a statement.
“This is a monumental accomplishment, using international law as a legal basis for extending the sovereign rights of our nation to the high-sea areas and the rich seabed resources thereof that rightfully belong to the present and future generations of citizens of the FSM,” he added.
The FSM acknowledged that Palau and Japan have also lodged overlapping claims over the north of Yap.
“Regardless of any possible outcome involving this specific issue, the FSM is resolved to ensure its diplomatic relations with Palau and Japan remain stronger than can be measured or described, as the FSM has a Kizuna (special bond) with Japan and Palau is part of the family of sovereign Micronesian countries,” reads a statement released by the FSM government.
Prior to the claim filing, FSM officials said they consulted Palau and Japan on April 22. So far, the rival claimants have no objection to the FSM’s action, they said.
Based on the commission's rules, any claim submission may still be considered “for as long as it is without prejudice to the question of delimitation of the continental shelf between states with opposite or adjacent coasts,” the FSM government said.
Continental shelves have been drawing attention from coastal nations, hoping to explore any natural resources that might be found in their seabed and subsoil.
The FSM previously filed partial claims on three other territories: the Mussau Ridge, the Eauripik Rise, and the Ontong Java Plateau. These claims were jointly submitted by the FSM, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
The FSM government said the continental shelves in the north of Yap “could be host to numerous rare earth metals, which are critical components for semiconductors, smartphones, solar panels, oil, petroleum and other natural resources.”
Joining Gallen in filing FSM’s claim were Jeem Lippwe, deputy permanent representative of the FSM Permanent Mission to the UN; Leonito Bacalando Jr., chief of law and assistant attorney general; Adam Caldwell, secretary for the FSM Cybersecurity & Intelligence Bureau; and Clement Mulalap Jr., independent legal consultant.
According to rules followed by the United Nations Division for Legal Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the FSM’s claim will be posted for a period of 90 days on its website. After the posting period, the FSM will be invited to formally present its claim to the commission.