Philippine Maritime Zones Act approved by House on 2nd reading
MANILA, Philippines — The proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, which seeks to establish the actual jurisdiction of the country, has been approved by the House of Representatives on second reading.
House Bill (HB) No. 7819 contained in Committee Report No. 483 was approved on Tuesday via viva voce or voice voting. It was a consolidation four bills — HB Nos. 2467, 3895, 6109, and 6903.
Under the said measure, the following would be included in the country’s maritime zones:
- internal waters
- archipelagic waters
- territorial sea
- contiguous zone
- exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
- continental shelf
Committee on foreign affairs chairman and Pangasinan 3rd District Rep. Maria Rachel Arenas, who sponsored the bill at the plenary, said that the proposal was created in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“This bill will demarcate the metes and bounds of our territory which is fundamental to our national interest as an archipelagic state. As chairperson of the committee on foreign affairs and one of the primary authors of this bill, I urge my fellow legislators to act expeditiously in putting our archipelagic house in order,” she said.
“We started this arduous but significant task in 2009, when the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 9622 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law. This law serves as a statutory tool to demarcate the Philippine maritime zones under [Unclos],” she added.
Despite the passage of R.A. No. 9622, such a bill is still necessary according to Arenas.
“Declaring these maritime zones through an act of Congress is the next crucial and indispensable step in securing the Philippine maritime territory,” she said.
“Declaring the Philippine Maritime Zones is also imperative in promoting the territorial integrity of the country. It is important to note that Unclos is only permissive and these maritime zones are not automatically ascribed in favor of a State,” she pointed out.
This is not the first proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act tackled by the Congress.
In December 2021, the House of Representatives approved a similar bill.
Then senate president Vicente Sotto III urged then president Rodrigo Duterte to certify the bill as urgent, but it was not passed during the 18th Congress.