'Law defining maritime zones to bolster PH claims'

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2015 07:00 PM | Updated as of Mar 03 2015 03:00 AM

MANILA - A law that would define the country’s maritime zones would help strengthen the country’s claims in its territorial disputes with China, Senator Sonny Angara said.

Angara, chairman of the foreign relations subcommittee on archipelagic sea lanes and maritime zones, held a public hearing on Monday to discuss two Senate bills that seek to define the maritime zones of the Philippines.

“It will specify, it will solidify, it will bolster. Dagdag siya sa finile natin sa ITLOS (International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea) at pinapakita na sa domestic na batas natin kinikilala natin ang international law (It will add to the case we filed before the ITLOS and shows that our domestic law recognizes international law),” Angara told reporters.

The senator also called defining the Philippines’ maritime zones the “unfinished business” of the country’s baselines law.

The Philippines is locked in a dispute with China over certain territories in the South China Sea. In March 2014, the Philippines filed a 4,000-page memorial before ITLOS, arguing that China’s claims covering areas as far as 870 nautical miles from the nearest Chinese coast are illegal.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings.

At a hearing of the subcommittee on Monday, officials from various government agencies expressed support for Senate bills 39 and 174, which seek to define the country’s maritime zones.

“We would say that the maritime zones bill is not supposed to resolve our dispute with our overlapping claims,” said Assistant Secretary Jose de Vega of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of Legal Affairs.

“It just tells the international community that this is our claim and this is what we assert, and then it will give us the opportunity to negotiate our limitation.”