House OKs bill on declaration of PH maritime zones
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that would establish the actual maritime jurisdiction of the country or the Philippine Maritime Zones was approved by the House of Representatives on the third and final reading on Monday.
House Bill (HB) No. 7819, or the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, was approved with 284 lawmakers voting in the affirmative, and none of those present voting against it or abstaining.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the bill would provide the country flexibility regarding maritime rights — following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“This bill will provide flexibility in enacting laws pertinent to the rights and obligations that the Philippines can exercise over its maritime zone,” Romualdez said.
“Aside from this, the bill also provides sovereign rights over these maritime zones, thus establishing the Philippines’ exclusive rights to explore and exploit living and nonliving resources found in these zones, in accordance with the [UNCLOS] and other existing laws and treaties,” he added.
If HB No. 7819 is approved, the following will be included in the country’s maritime zones:
- internal waters
- archipelagic waters
- territorial sea
- contiguous zone
- exclusive economic zone (EEZ)
- continental shelf
Last May 23, when the bill was tackled on second reading, committee on foreign affairs chairman and Pangasinan 3rd District Rep. Maria Rachel Arenas said the proposal was still needed despite the passage of Republic Act No. 9622 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law.
“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 Congress. In December 2021, the House of Representatives approved a similar bill.
In the Senate, 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.