A Filipino geologist is joining a select panel of experts helping a United Nations (UN) agency in its mission to manage and protect the world’s seabed resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction (the Area).
Mario Juan Aurelio, 57, a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), former director of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, and a science writer of CoverStory.ph, was elected to the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) of the UN-created International Seabed Authority (ISA).
Aurelio is the first Filipino to be elected to the commission, which held the second part of its 27th session in Kingston, Jamaica, last July 4-15. “His name is now etched in the halls of the United Nations and is one of the country’s sources of pride,” the UP Diliman Information Office said in a statement.
ISA, an autonomous organization of the UN, was set up in 1994 under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and the 1994 Agreement relating to the implementation of the convention’s Part XI. It had 168 members, including the European Union, as of May 2020.
According to its website, ISA is mandated “to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from harmful effects that may arise from deep-seabed related activities.” Through it, member-states and parties to Unclos “organize and control all mineral-related activities” in the Area and its resources described as “the common heritage of mankind” and covering around 54% of the world’s oceans.
The LTC, as an organ of the Council of ISA, makes recommendations “on all matters relating to the exploration and exploitation of nonliving marine resources.”
Aurelio described the ISA as “perhaps among the least publicized of the UN organizations.” He said “it is high time the world was made aware of its role of serving as the guardian of the seabed resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.”
The LTC “performs a key function in the implementation of this mandate,” he said in a text message to CoverStory.ph while attending the Jamaica meetings.
Structural geology, etc.
Aurelio specializes in structural geology, tectonics, and mineral and energy resources exploration and development.
“Deep seabed mining is considered by many as the future of mineral resources development and management to support green technologies for a more sustainable earth,” he said.
Aurelio obtained his undergraduate degree in geology from UP in 1985 and topped the board examination for geologists that same year. He completed a master’s degree in geodynamics of oceans and continents in 1989 and a doctorate in structural geology and tectonics in 1992, both at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France.
He studied space geodesy and seismotectonics at the same university and at the Institut füer Angewandte Geodäsie in Frankfurt, Germany (1994-95) as a postdoctorate fellow. He pursued deep offshore tectonic studies at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris (2000) as a fellow of the European Union.
Before his UP employment, Aurelio spent 20 years as a geologist at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where he was trained in mineral resources exploration and development at the department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
At 34, Aurelio was accorded the 1999 Achievement Award of the National Research Council of the Philippines. In 2005, he was named Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology, and in 2006, Professional Geologist of the Year by the Professional Regulation Commission.
He has written over 250 international and local scientific publications and technical reports and has presented over 175 papers in conferences, seminars and workshops in over 20 countries.