By EDDIE OSIFELO
SOLOMON Islands has seen the need to protect her five maritime borders with Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
This is because it has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.598 million square kilometres compared to the two percent in terms of land territory and an important natural resource and a primary source of income livelihood for our people.
Like other Small Islands developing states, Solomon Islands is also vulnerable to climate change, sea level rise and other catastrophic events.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele told Parliament last week that Solomon Islands have signed maritime boundary treaties with Australia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu except with Fiji.
He said the two currently enforced are with the Australia Solomon Islands Maritime Boundary Treaty 1998 and Solomon Islands New Caledonia French Maritime Boundary treaty 1990 .
Manele said two have been signed but yet to enforce are Solomon Islands Papua New Guinea Maritime Boundary Treaty and Solomon Islands Vanuatu Maritime Boundary treaty 2016.
He said one is still outstanding the Solomon Islands Fiji Maritime Boundary treaty.
“At the moment the Ministry is in the final stages of entering into force the Solomon Islands Papua New Guinea Maritime Boundary treaty and the Solomon Islands Vanuatu Maritime Boundary treaty
“These are the two Maritime Boundary treaties that are signed but yet to enter into force,” he added.
Manele said his Ministry priority is to determine the outer limits of our maritime zones and concludes outstanding maritime boundary treaties and register them with United Nations in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (‘UNCLOS’).
“This will give permanent recognition that our baseline and maritime zones within our maritime boundaries will not be challenged or reduced even in the event of rising sea levels
“This will indeed create certainty and stability of expectations on both sides of the border,” he said.
“The message here is once we deposit our maritime boundary zones as established in accordance with UNCLOS with the UN Secretary General, these maritime boundaries will not change or reduce or challenge as a result of fiscal changes to the baselines resulting from climate change and sea level rise.
“This practice will reiterate legal principles undermine the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea including the principle of legal stability, security, certainty and predictability,” he said.
Manele said “As Small Islands Developing States collectively working together with other Pacific SIDS in the region is critical.
“We raised our voice as one Blue Pacific regionally and globally to address common issues of concerns affecting us in the region such as climate change, sustainable development, covid 19, cyber security, illegal fishing, transnational crime, human trafficking to name a few.
“Through established regional mechanisms, my ministry will continue to work together with our regional organisations such the Pacific Islands Forum, The Pacific Community (SPC), Forum Fisheries Agency and others to address these issues of concern that are dear to us,” he added.