MANILA — Sen. Francis Tolentino on Wednesday said he filed a bill that seeks to institutionalize and "popularize" the term "West Philippine Sea" in order to "further reinforce the Philippines’ claim to the disputed territories."
Under Senate Bill No. 405, the maritime area—including the air space, seabed, and subsoil—on the western side of the Philippine archipelago would be named "West Philippine Sea" or "Kanlurang Dagat ng Pilipinas."
Tolentino's bill appears to be lifted from a 2012 order by then-President Noynoy Aquino naming the "maritime areas on the western side of the Philippine archipelago" as West Philippine Sea months, after the Scarborough Shoal stand-off between Manila and Beijing.
Tolentino said it is the Philippines' “inherent right to designate the names of its maritime areas," citing the 2016 award of the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that junked China's sweeping claims to the waterway.
The Hague tribunal invalidated Beijing’s “nine-dash line” doctrine over almost the entire South China Sea following an arbitration case filed by the Philippine government on Jan. 22, 2013.
Under Tolentino's bill, territories under the West Philippine Sea include the Luzon Sea and the waters around, within, and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan and Bajo de Masinloc or also known as Scarborough Shoal in Zambales, among others.
The bill also mandates the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to produce and publish charts and maps of the Philippines reflecting the nomenclature “West Philippine Sea” or the “Kanlurang Dagat ng Pilipinas.”
The measure also directs all departments, subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Philippine government to use the name West Philippine Sea or Kanlurang Dagat ng Pilipinas in all communications, messages, and public documents, and “to popularize the use of such name with the general public, both domestically and internationally.”
Private institutions are likewise mandated to use the same terms.
In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. said "the Philippines shall continue to be a friend to all and an enemy to none" but added that he "will not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power."
Marcos' predecessor former President Rodrigo Duterte had set aside the Hague ruling and instead pursued warmer ties with China.