Senate passes maritime zones act on 2nd reading

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Image from Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Senate approved on second reading the measure declaring the maritime zones under Philippine jurisdiction
  • Senate Bill No. 2492, to be known as the Philippine Maritime Zones Act, hurdled the second reading on February 21 after a series of individual amendments
  • The bill declares the rights of the Philippines over its maritime zones, which include its internal and archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, Exclusive Economic Zone, and continental shelf

The Senate approved on second reading the measure declaring the maritime zones under Philippine jurisdiction.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2492, to be known as the Philippine Maritime Zones Act and principally authored by Senator Francis Tolentino, hurdled the second reading on February 21 after a series of individual amendments.

The bill aims to declare the rights and entitlements of the Philippines over its maritime zones, which include its internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and continental shelf.

Tolentino, who is also the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, is shepherding the bill which will make the Philippines compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) in establishing its maritime zones.

It will also be in accordance with the 2016 South China Sea (SCS) arbitration, wherein The Permanent Court of Arbitration unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China over conflicting claims on the SCS.

Tolentino said the Maritime Zones Act will bolster the Philippine claim in territorial disputes and will not abandon other claims of the country.

Tolentino earlier said it is timely and necessary for the Philippines to have its own Maritime Zones Act because it “is not merely a legal obligation, but a paramount necessity for the Philippines’ national, economic, and environmental security.”

He said it would enable the country to fully enforce applicable maritime laws and enjoy its rights over its territory and EEZ and pave the way for clarifying and updating relevant maritime laws and policies, which have been enacted before UNCLOS.

“This will further fortify our rights and entitlements over our maritime zones and provide the country with a strong diplomatic negotiating tool in pursuing our interests therein,” Tolentino said in a sponsorship speech.

The clear delineation of maritime boundaries of the Philippines, he said, would help relevant government institutions harness ocean resources and maritime spaces crucial in developing the country’s blue economy potential.

Any violation will be subject to an administrative fine of not less than $600,000 but not more than $1 million, or the equivalent in Philippine currency.

Its counterpart bill, House Bill No. 7819, has been approved on third and final reading in May 2023.