SEAFDEC/AQD Scientist pushes for equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources in international waters

By Development Communication Section/MRR Eguia

Dr. MRR Eguia delivering the Philippines’ statements during week two of the PrepComm 3 meeting on “Marine Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction” held at the UN Headquarters in New York (Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon)

A scientist at SEAFDEC/AQD pushed for the equitable sharing of potential benefits from marine resources in international waters as she became part of the Philippine delegation in a United Nations Committee meeting.

Dr. Maria Rowena R. Eguia delivered one of several Philippine statements during the 3rd meeting of the “Preparatory Committee on Marine Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York last April 5, 2017.

“Whatever resources are extracted from international waters are part of the common heritage of mankind,” said Dr. Eguia, referring to marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), or the high seas, for which the UN is developing an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.

“If at all these are to be explored and utilized, research activities should also involve countries with no or little capability to do so as part of their capacity building and whatever product and benefits coming from the scientific undertakings should be shared equitably,” she added.

Dr. Eguia, who has an expertise in genetics, served as one of two technical advisers for the Philippine delegation on the issue of marine genetic resources in the ABNJ. The other adviser is Dr. Marie Antoniette Meñez of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute.

She further emphasized that research on conservation and sustainable management of resources should be prioritized before embarking on commercial research that could entail unregulated bioprospecting.

“Exploration for commercial purposes may be considered of least priority unless the potential use of the genetic resources can be identified as of utmost importance to mankind, such as in drug development,” she said.

According to Dr. Eguia, research should be conducted first to assess the status of ABNJs especially on depleted habitats and those affected by climate change, as well as the state of biological and mineral resources.

“Once done, areas needing rehabilitation (both physically and biologically) can be considered for protection and marine genetic resource conservation,” Dr. Eguia said.

The high seas, covering 64% of the oceans, are international waters for which no country has sole ownership or responsibility, highlighting the need to develop policies to manage its conservation and use.

Dr. Eguia has been helping the Philippine delegation (albeit in absentia) in crafting the country’s official statements on marine genetic resources in the ABNJ as delivered in previous UN Prep Comm meetings. For this 3rd committee meeting, with travel funds from SEAFDEC/AQD, she was able to join the Philippine delegation which involved representatives from different government agencies and the academe.

Photo of the conference room where the PrepComm 3 meeting was held (Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon)
Some of the members of the Philippine delegation, from left: Ms. E Tulay and Ms. S Bales of PCAF, Atty. D Escoto of BFAR, Dir. R Villanueva of DFA-MOAO, Ms. D Maano of DENR-BMB and Dr. MRR Eguia (Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon)

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