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Friday, May 31, 2024

Solons hope to ease tensions at WPS with PH Maritime Zones bill

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Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said a proposed measure Philippine Maritime Zones Act is expected to strengthen the country’s claim over the West Philippine Sea.

The Senate on Monday night approved on third and final reading the proposed legislation under Senate Bill No. 2294 that seeks to establish Philippine maritime zones.

Gatchalian, member of the Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zone, hopes the proposed legislation would be enacted as soon as possible due to the continuing tensions over disputed waters in the WPS.

Over the weekend, the Chinese Coast Guard blocked near the Scarborough Shoal a Philippine vessel, which was delivering fuel and aid to Filipino fishermen in the area.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said they had a similar encounter in the area a week earlier.

“This is an important piece of legislation that would strengthen our sovereign rights in the WPS, which was already established by our victory in the 2016 arbitral ruling,” said Gatchalian, who co-authored the proposed measure.

The proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, once enacted into law, would clearly define the country’s maritime zones, harmonizing domestic laws on maritime territory with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Specifically, the establishment of the country’s maritime zones would fortify the geographical extent of the Philippines’ maritime domain, Gatchalian explained.

Sen.  Francis Tolentino is the sponsor of the measure, which will establish the Philippine Maritime Zones in compliance with the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

The new law sets the archipelagic boundaries, the country’s internal waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) over which the Philippine government exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction. Under the measure, the Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ in the WPS are highlighted together with the Benham Rise.

This would protect the rights of Filipino fishermen over the vast resources of the WPS as well as the untapped energy resources in the area. It will also serve as the cornerstone of our maritime policy, protecting our sovereignty and addressing our national security needs.

“Within the maritime zones law, we can forge more alliances with other countries, under a rules-based international order in compliance with UNCLOS,” added Tolentino.

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