Senate passes Philippine Maritime Zones Bill

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Bill amid China’s reported incursions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

With 23 affirmative votes and no negative or abstentions, the Senate passed the proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2492 which declares the Philippines’ rights and entitlements over its maritime zones, including the underwater features.

Senator Francis Tolentino, sponsor of the measure, lauded the passage of SB No. 2492, saying this marks a “significant milestone” for the country.

“Kahit ano pong mangyari ngayon sa Bajo de Masinloc. Kahit ano pong mangyari ngayon sa karagatan ng West Philippine Sea. Kahit ano pong mangyari ngayon sa Benham Rise, nakatatak na po sa kasaysayan ang Philippine Maritime Zones Law na magiging bantayog ng ating kalayaan,” Tolentino said in his speech.

(Whatever happens at Bajo de Masinloc, WPS, and Benham Rise, we now have the Philippine Maritime Zones Law  which will raise our freedom.)

In voting for the proposed measure, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the landmark measure will “reinforce our rights as an archipelagic state and will be part of the legal, political, and diplomatic strategies of the Philippines in enforcing the rule of law in our domain”.

“Binibigyang-diin po at ngipin ng panukalang batas na ito ang integridad ng ating teritoryo na kinikilala ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea at makasaysayang tagumpay dito sa Permanent Court of Arbitration sa Hague none 2016,” said Villanueva.

(This strengthens our integrity in our territory under the UNCLOS and our historic win at the PCA in 2016.)

Tolentino and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri in August 2023 said the Senate will fast-track the passage of the Philippine Maritime Zones bill amid China’s release of the new 10-dash line map which places nearly the entire South China Sea, along with Taiwan and an Indian state, within its national boundaries.

Tolentino said the proposed measure would be “a response to the 10-dash line.”

In July 2023, the Senate created a special panel in July 2023 which discussed the proposed Maritime Zones Act that will establish the extent of Philippine jurisdiction over its exclusive zones and its continental shelf. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News

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