The Philippines has formally lodged a petition with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to expand the boundaries of its continental shelf in the West Palawan area, located in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The proposal, presented through the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York on June 14, aims to assert the country’s right to the seabed and subsurface areas that stretch up to 350 nautical miles (NM) from its baseline, above the usual limit of 200 NM.

For more than a decade, the Extended Continental Shelf Technical Working Group (ECS-TWG) has been compiling the necessary scientific and technical data to substantiate this assertion under the supervision of the National Mapping and Resource Information Agency (NAMRIA).

The submission’s extensive geodetic, hydrographic, geophysical, and geological research was emphasized by NAMRIA Administrator Peter Tiangco, who commended the team’s persistent efforts.

Marshall Louis Alferez, the DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs, stressed the relevance of the submission in a statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday.

He said the submission is significant not only in terms of the Philippines’ maritime entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but also in terms of the nation’s dedication to the responsible management of its maritime resources.

“Incidents in the waters tend to overshadow the importance of what lies beneath,” said Alferez.

“The seabed and the subsoil extending from our archipelago up the maximum extent allowed by UNCLOS hold significant potential resources that will benefit our nation and our people for generations to come. Today we secure our future by making a manifestation of our exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources in our ECS entitlement,” he further explained.

The move is a result of the Philippines’ ongoing efforts to protect its marine territories, which began with a successful petition about the Philippine Rise. He said the submission has been strengthened by the 2016 South China Sea Arbitration judgment, which affirmed the rights of the Philippines while rejecting exaggerated claims made by “other countries.”

China is particularly assertive in its claims over the West Philippine Sea, intensifying regional tensions through the use of grey zone tactics.

These schemes, which include actions like laser lighting of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel, blocking resupply missions to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, obstruction of Filipino fishermen to traditional fishing grounds, and destroying the marine environment, are seen as designs to bolster China’s position without engaging in direct military confrontation.

“We consider our submission as a step in discussing delimitation matters and other forms of cooperation moving forward. What is important is that the Philippines puts on record the maximum extent of our entitlement,” Alferez added.

Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo, the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations, expressed confidence that the Philippines’ submission would encourage other governments to engage with the processes of the UNCLOS, thereby promoting “a rules-based international order in maritime governance.”

He underlined that this submission addresses both the continuing regional tensions and the legitimate claims of other coastal nations in the EECS, hence facilitating negotiations on future delimitation and cooperation.

This submission of ECS entitlement signifies the second instance in which the country has engaged in this procedure. In April 2009, the country submitted a partial claim for the Philippine Rise. This claim was reviewed and approved by the CLCS in 2012, resulting in the Philippines being granted an additional 135,506 square kilometers of seabed area.

During this initial submission, the Philippines also declared its intention to make future submissions for other areas.