MANILA — Voting 284-0-0, the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 7819, declaring the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines.
“This bill will provide flexibility in enacting laws pertinent to the rights and obligations that the Philippines can exercise over its maritime zone,” House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement.
“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 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other existing laws and treaties,” Speaker Romualdez added.
The Speaker's office explained that under HB 7819, maritime zones of the Philippines comprise the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf.
It also said that the bill also provides for the exercise of jurisdiction over these zones with regard to rights and duties provided for in the UNCLOS. Likewise, it states that the rights of the Philippines relative to its maritime zones and entitlements shall be exercised in accordance with the UNCLOS, and the awards rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal in Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Case 23 No. 2013-19, in the matter of the South China Sea Arbitration between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, handed down on July 12, 2016, at The Hague.
"This measure is beneficial to our pursuit of food and economic security. Claiming an EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and contiguous zone of 200 nautical miles from the baselines allows the Philippines to exercise its sovereign rights to explore and exploit, conserve, and manage the natural resources in these waters," Pangasinan 3rd District Rep. Rachel Arenas, chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs explained in her sponsorship speech last week.
"Declaring the Philippine Maritime Zones is also imperative in promoting the territorial integrity of our country," Arenas said.
"Enhancing maritime governance is key to promoting our territorial integrity. A Maritime Zones Law will provide direction to different government agencies mandated to defend our maritime territory against foreign intrusion, protect the marine environment, enforce our sovereign rights, and implement corresponding regulations to secure our maritime domain. For instance, declaring our contiguous zone will strengthen the country's law enforcement capacity necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration, or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea," Arenas added.
"My dear colleagues, we cannot defend and protect our maritime territory without declaring what is ours. We cannot pursue food and economic security without delimiting the jurisdictions of the Philippine maritime territory. We cannot strengthen our position in the West Philippine Sea and negotiate with our neighbors if our maritime boundaries are not recognized by the community of nations. We cannot secure the future of the Filipino people if we will not enact a Maritime Zones Law," Arenas also said.
As explained in the congressional fact sheet, the bill provides for a general declaration of the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Philippines. The various maritime zones include internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf.
It defines the maximum extent of territorial sea (1 2 nautical miles), contiguous zone (24 nautical miles), EEZ (200 nautical miles), and continental shelf (200 nautical miles).
It allows the delineation of continental shelves extending beyond 200 NM, in accordance with Article 76 of the UNCLOS.
It also provides for the 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.
Finally, it provides for the exercise of jurisdiction over these zones with regard to rights and duties provided for in the UNCLOS.
The House will submit the bill to the Senate for action.