Fighting biodiversity devastation in high seas

Fighting biodiversity devastation in high seas

/ 05:11 AM February 14, 2024

Disinformation isn’t just about social media users sharing false statements or “fake news.” It also involves nation-states, like China, making false assertions that there are no high seas in its imaginary 10-dash line in the South China Sea.

The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration clearly states that China has no historic rights and no legal basis for its claim. What is true is that the high seas in the South China Sea are indeed covered by international law and subject to the marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement, also known as the High Seas Treaty.

Adopted by the United Nations on June 19 last year, this agreement was signed by 86 countries on Sept. 20, 2023, including the Philippines and China. The signatories reaffirm their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), including the protection and preservation of the marine environment.

There is also a need for a comprehensive global regime under Unclos to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction—areas also referred to as the high seas.


Specifically, Article 2 of the Agreement aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This can be achieved through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention and further international cooperation.

In the latest forum that our Stratbase Institute hosted in partnership with the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, we gathered some of the most prominent experts and brightest minds in foreign policy and international defense.

Nishimoto Kentaro, professor of international law at Tohoku University, said that the BBNJ “is very important not only in the context of biodiversity because when it enters into force, that will add another layer to the rule of law that applies to the oceans. There is a continuing relevance of the South China Sea arbitral award in the context of this treaty.”

Former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio asserted that the BBNJ Agreement is another tool that can debunk China’s 10-dash line claim. The agreement provides yet another mechanism for the international community to counter the disinformation tactics employed by China.


The BBNJ is an example of a legal instrument enabling states to protect their marine resources and combat biodiversity loss due to illegal maritime activities by irresponsible actors.

Like-minded partners must exhibit the same level of commitment to protecting biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction as they do in ensuring civil maritime security. The conservation and security of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction can be achieved through strengthening and enhancing cooperation with partners across minilateral, bilateral, and multilateral forums. This can be further facilitated by conducting joint marine scientific research and developing and transferring marine technologies.


A strong partner we have is Japan which shares the Philippines’ respect for the rules-based international order and has consistently supported our rights in the West Philippine Sea.

Japan also enjoys the trust of Filipinos as confirmed by a Stratbase-commissioned Pulse Asia survey conducted between Dec. 3 and 7, 2023, wherein more than four in 10 Filipinos (42 percent) believe that the current administration of President Marcos should collaborate with Japan given the ongoing tensions.


Unclos remains the primary for ocean governance and sovereign rights to exploit, explore, and utilize marine resources within legal state territories. This, coupled with the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, forms the bedrock of the strength and immutability of the Philippines’ position in the West Philippine Sea.

The BBNJ Agreement and cooperation with like-minded partners such as Japan both serve to crystalize the Philippines’ objective of adhering to the rules-based international order to ensure the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region.

In the face of traditional and nontraditional and evolving threats, the Philippines should find solace in existing international law and the unwavering support of like-minded countries like Japan, and the rest of the world made up of countries that share our reverence for the rule of law.

No amount of disinformation or distortion of the truth can negate this reality.


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Dindo Manhit is founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.

TAGS: 10-dash line, China, opinion, South China Sea

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