Tonga PM urges Pacific partners to properly manage seabed minerals

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A fifth Pacific-SIDS regional and capacity development workshop and a high level panel for sustainable management of seabed minerals of the Blue Pacific continent is being held this week in Nuku’alofa.

Participants from other Pacific Islands include, Fiji’s Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Filimoni Vosarogo; Nauru’s Deputy Minister on RONPHOS, Delvin Oneil Thoma; and the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Michael Lodge.

Prime Minister Hu’akavemeiliku Siaosi Sovaleni during the workshop opening said, this panel is an opportunity for discussions on ways in which the Pacific can collectively ensure the responsible and sustainable management of the mineral wealth, which lies within our respective exclusive economic zones and area.

“A challenge which is important for all Pacific Islands and their people.”

Hu’akavameiliku reminded participants that the Pacific is made up of large ocean states and continues to be vital to the Pacific lives and livelihoods.

“However, our knowledge and traditions remain confined to near-shore areas, fisheries, or navigation. The seabed and its minerals remain one of the unknowns to us. This is due to the lack of resources and access to technology, that would reach the deep depths and the seabed in the Pacific Ocean.”

He said Pacific people rely on development partners to assist in assessing the viability of minerals on the ocean floors, to develop necessary regulatory framework and to build capacities to ensure proper and informed decision making in the administration and management of seabed minerals, so the role of the International Seabed Authority pursuant to Part XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea is very important.

“As members of the Convention, we bestowed the responsibility on this organisation to set the standards for the exploitation of mineral resources in the area for the benefit of humanity as a whole. These standards will, in turn, inform the development of our regulatory framework for activities undertaken within our exclusive economic zones.”

He said the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent emphasises the need for us to accelerate economic growth aspirations by investing in our shared expertise to quantify and determine the full value of our people, oceanic and land-based natural resources; secure a future for our people, we will deepen our collective responsibility and accountability for the stewardship of the Blue Pacific Continent and strengthen our ownership and management of our resources; and protect our ocean and environment.

“As a member of the Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and as a sponsoring State, the Kingdom of Tonga is committed to supporting the mandate and work of ISA as assigned by UNCLOS and the 1994 Implementation Agreement, particularly as it relates to the stewardship of the Area and its resources for the benefit of humankind as a whole,” he said. The workshop was organised by the ISA and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) as part of the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth on Equitable sharing of benefits from activities in the area.

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