Efren Carandang: First Filipino CLCS member

Since the establishment of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 1997, no Filipino has ever been elected to serve in the UN body. Last week, the Philippines won a seat in the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) of the CLCS, the first time the archipelagic state will serve in the commission.

The Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations said the Philippines competed with eight other candidates under the APG, and successfully reached the required majority of votes. Out of 164 states present and voting, the Philippines garnered 113 votes after four tough rounds.

The successful Philippine candidate, Efren A. Carandang, will serve at the UN body for five years. He is currently the deputy administrator of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) and one of the country’s most eminent scholars on ocean governance.

The CLCS is an international institution created by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to facilitate the expansion of continental shelf of coastal states beyond the 200-nautical-mile limit. It is mandated to study the scientific and technical data submitted by coastal states seeking to establish the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, and to make recommendations.

The CLCS has 21 members who are experts in the field of geology, geophysics, or hydrography. Commission members serve in their personal capacities and are elected for a term of five years.

In BusinessMirror’s Editorial on May 10, 2022, we campaigned for the inclusion of the Philippine nominee as CLCS member for 2023 to 2028. We described how Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. hailed Carandang as the Philippines’s foremost authority on the technical intricacies of the law of the sea: “His stellar career of 38 years is marked by tested strategic planning and management skills, expert knowledge in the use of advanced tools and technologies, and deep, extensive experience in hydrography and understanding of its ramifications in international maritime law.”

Locsin added: “Should Efren be elected, he will dedicate his skills and experience to hasten the consideration of coastal states’ submissions on their continental shelves. He will share his management skills to help the CLCS overcome its operational challenges and thereby improve its performance.”

As an expert on archipelagic baselines, Carandang was part of the core team that developed the country’s April 2009 submission for the 13-million-hectare Philippine Rise, formerly known as the Benham Rise, which was recognized by the UN body in 2012. The Philippine Rise is an underwater plateau located near Aurora, which is larger than Luzon, the country’s biggest island. Thus, Carandang’s team successfully added135,506 square kilometers of seabed area in the Philippine Rise.

Carandang also helped provide key technical assistance in the conduct of negotiations with neighboring coastal states for the delimitation of overlapping maritime boundaries, which was instrumental to the success of the negotiations that resulted in the settlement of the Philippine maritime boundaries with Indonesia.

Carandang brings honor to the country as the first Filipino member of CLCS. As Secretary Locsin has said, “his service to the UN body would be consistent with his advocacy for the full and consistent application of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, particularly on the determination of maritime entitlements, delineation of maritime zones, and delimitation of international maritime boundaries.”

Kudos to our representative to the UN commission!