Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has filed a bill that seeks to address a perceived shortcoming of Republic Act (RA) No.9522, or the Philippine Archipelagic Baseline Law.
Villafuerte introduced House Bill (HB) No. 8018, which directs the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to establish the archipelagic sea lanes of the Philippines as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant international conventions.
If enacted, the measure would enable the government to designate sea lanes where foreign merchant ships, warships, and aircraft can pass in accordance with UNCLOS provisions.
“Under UNCLOS, an archipelagic State has sovereignty over its archipelagic waters and the airspace above it, as well as its seabed and subsoil. The archipelagic State may designate sea lanes and air routes suitable for the continuous and expeditious passage of ships and aircraft through or over its archipelagic waters and the adjacent territorial sea,” Villafuerte explained.
Villafuerte noted that while the 11-year-old RA No.9522 effectively delineated the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines, the law failed to provide and establish the archipelagic sea lanes of the Philippines as espoused in Article 53 of the UNCLOS.
“With its waters linked to important and busy navigational routes, it is imperative that the Philippines designate its archipelagic sea lanes in consideration of its own security, economic and environmental interests,” said the former deputy speaker.
The measure sets the conditions and requirements for foreign ships and aircraft exercising their right to archipelagic sea lanes passage and the conduct of oceanographic or hydrographic surveys.
For example, it provides that foreign ships and aircraft–while exercising the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage–shall refrain from making any threat or use of force against the sovereignty territorial integrity or political independence of the Republic of the Philippines, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.
More importantly, it also sets prohibitions on the fishing, loading, unloading of persons, goods or currency in Philippine territory.
Villafuerte’s bill likewise seeks to prohibit foreign ships from expelling oil or other toxic substances into the Philippine marine environment.
The bill tasks the DFA to craft the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed law in consultation with the Philippine Coast Guard, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, and other concerned agencies.