House rep urges colleagues to pass bill establishing archipelagic sea lanes
MANILA, Philippines — Bicol Saro party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan urged his colleagues on Wednesday to pass House Bill No. 9034 — the proposed Act Establishing the Archipelagic Sea Lanes in Philippine Archipelagic Waters.
“I urge fellow lawmakers to act quickly on the measure designating our archipelagic sea lanes when Congress resumes session next month,” Yamsuan said in a statement.
The House already passed the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act on its third and final reading last May 29, he said. But there is still a need to set sea lanes and air routes to solidify the country’s sovereignty over disputed areas and ensure the safety of water vessels and aircraft exercising their right of innocent passage.
Those bills were filed at a time when China’s ships continued their incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
“China is becoming too daring in its actions. Now that they are inside our EEZ [exclusive economic zone], we don’t know if tomorrow they will be inside our territory. Let us not wait for them to enter again while all we can do just protest,” Yamsuan said in Filipino.
Congress cannot deliberate laws at the plenary level during its session break, which started last Sept. 30. The session would resume on Nov. 6 — and only then could the House start deliberating on HB No. 9034.
Under the bill — of which Yamsuan is a principal author — foreign ships and aircraft will be allowed to pass through the designated sea lanes as quickly as possible for the sole purpose of “continuous, expeditious and unobstructed transit.”
They will also be directed to refrain from using any threat or force that will go against the “sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Condemning China’s aggression
In his statement, Yamsuan also said that he agreed with House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez in condemning China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea, particularly after the latest incident at Ayungin Shoal.
Last Sunday, it was reported that ships from the Chinese Coast Guard hit an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-contracted boat and a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship doing a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippine Navy deliberately ran aground the BRP Sierra Madre near Ayungin Shoal to serve as one of its outposts.
“We join Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez in strongly condemning China’s reckless and dangerous actions in the West Philippine Sea. These acts pose a threat to regional peace and stability and are blatant violations of international law,” Yamsuan said.
“While China continues to disregard our freedom of navigation within our own exclusive economic zone (EEZ), we should act quickly to ensure that such actions do not embolden them to encroach on our territorial waters and conduct any kind of activity without the permission of our government.”