All artificial isles ‘owned’ by PH under Senate maritime bill

All artificial isles ‘owned’ by PH under Senate maritime bill

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:20 AM February 27, 2024

A CORNERSTONE OF PH MARITIME POLICY: Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino, sponsor of Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2492 or the Philippine Maritime Zones Act, thanks colleagues for their invaluable support and approval of the measure during the plenary session Monday, February 26, 2024, which he said, “marks a significant milestone not only for our legislative body but for our nation as a whole.” Tolentino also expressed his gratitude to the legislative staff who reviewed and refined every aspect of the bill, ensuring that it upholds the principles of sovereignty, environmental sustainability and maritime security. “Your diligence and attention to details have played a pivotal role in shaping a law that will safeguard our maritime interests for generations to come,” the senator said. “It is a privilege and an honor to serve our nation and I am committed to ensuring that the Philippine Maritime Zones Law will continue to serve as a cornerstone of our maritime policy, protecting our sovereignty, promoting sustainable development and securing our future prosperity,” he added. With the affirmative votes of all 23 senators present, SBN 249 was approved on third and final reading. (Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB)

Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino (Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB)

Amid China’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea, the Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, which defines Filipinos’ rights over the country’s waters and undersea features—including all artificial islands.

At a press briefing, the bill sponsor, Sen. Francis Tolentino, said that under Senate Bill (SB) No. 2492, all artificial islands within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) “are owned” by the Philippines.


“Even if we were not the one who built the [artificial islands] as long as it is within our EEZ, it’s ours,” he said.


Such provision is not included in the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives in May last year, the senator noted.

Tolentino acknowledged that the proposed bill “might deter but it will not prevent the harassment being done by China right now.”

“But it will show our compliance with the law of the sea, arbitral ruling, maritime law. If we will pass this maritime zones law, it will prove that we have right over that maritime area. Whoever will not recognize that will have to face accountability. We can file a case… I believe the entire global community is supportive,” he said.

Significant milestone

Tolentino, chair of the Senate special committee on maritime and admiralty zones, said the passage of the measure marked a “significant milestone” for the country.

“Whatever happens at Bajo de Masinloc, whatever happens to West Philippine Sea, whatever happens to Benham Rise, the Philippine maritime zones law is now etched in our history, and will symbolize our freedom,” he said during plenary session.

Tolentino described SB 2492 as a landmark piece of legislation that establishes the Philippine Maritime Zones, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 arbitral ruling, which upheld the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources within its EEZ.


The proposed law sets the boundaries of the Philippine archipelago, as well as the country’s internal waters over which the Philippine government exercises sovereignty and jurisdiction.

READ: Marcos: Philippines will not lose one inch of its territory

Under the bill, the Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea are highlighted together with Benham Rise, now known as “Talampas ng Pilipinas,” said Tolentino.

The measure likewise protects the rights of Filipino fisherfolk over the vast resources of the West Philippine Sea, as well as the untapped energy resources in the area.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the bill would “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.”

Inquiry on cyanide use

Also on Monday, Tolentino pushed for an inquiry in aid of legislation regarding the alleged use of cyanide by foreign fishers in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is so alarming, at least 21,000 acres of coral reefs have already been destroyed… I now considered this as environmental terrorism, destruction of marine resources using cyanide,” he said.

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On Feb. 17, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources reported that the lagoon of the shoal had incurred heavy damage possibly due to cyanide fishing by Chinese and Vietnamese fishers. INQ

TAGS: China, maritime, Philippines, Senate, territory

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