The House of Representatives on Monday approved on second reading the bill declaring the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines.
The House approved, through a voice vote, House Bill 9981 that proposes “to promote territorial integrity and improve maritime governance and law enforcement.”
The measure declares the maritime zones of the Philippines to establish the legal bases by which social, economic, commercial, and other activities may be conducted.
It defines maritime zones of the Philippines as those that comprise the internal waters, the archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf.
One of the bill’s authors, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill’s enactment would strengthen the country’s position on the West Philippine Sea.
Rodriguez’s proposed definition of the country’s maritime territory includes the Chinese-occupied Scarborough or Panatag Shoal off Zambales and Pangasinan, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos.
Rodriguez said the Philippines, as a signatory and party to the 1983 UNCLOS, “recognizes the establishment of various maritime zones and jurisdiction of coastal states, including its own, over which sovereignty and appurtenant sovereign rights can be exercised.”
According to the bill, “all territories of the Philippines shall generate their respective maritime zones in accordance with international law.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) meanwhile said it is regularly providing supplies to troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin Shoal. The AFP said aside from food and other supplies, the troops manning the ship are also being replaced by others because they cannot be deployed for long periods.
The BRP Sierra Madre has been placed in Ayungin Shoal since 1999, and is considered a Philippine government post manned by AFP personnel.
Chinese Coast Guard vessels earlier blocked and water cannoned two Philippine supply boats on a resupply mission to the Ayungin Shoal, a move that was condemned by the government