Senate panel agrees to discuss more extensively bills on PH maritime territories

Published December 6, 2021, 6:31 PM

by Ben Rosario

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations required more time to further discuss a number of legislative measures relating to the declaration of the maritime zones of the Philippines and amendments to the baselines law following a hearing Monday, Dec. 6.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III

Chaired by Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the foreign relations panel, deliberated on three Senate bills seeking to define the maritime zones of the country and a resolution condemning the bullying of Chinese vessels against Filipino vessels and fishermen within the country’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine sea.

While no bill relating to proposed amendments to Republic Act 9522 or An Act to Define the Baselines of Territorial Sea of the Philippines, senators agreed to consolidate discussion on the subjects relating to Philippines territorial boundaries on December 14.

Senator Panfilo Lacson

Pimentel filed Senate Bill No. 2459 proposoing to harmonize existing statutes relating to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Seas.

“I find this very necessary in order to have a clear mandate for all our government agencies that will operationalize the same, such as our armed forces and civilian law enforcers,” he explained.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III called for the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2289 or the Maritime Zones Act, to preserve and protect the Philippines’ sovereign rights to carry out marine and maritime activities in the disputed waters.

“I hope that after today’s hearing, the committee would immediately come out with their report and bring it to the plenary,” the Senate President said.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said the controversy over the West Philippine Sea has affected the country’s national security, food security and economic security as a result of China’s continued incursions over Philippine territorial waters in the area.

“It has a great effect not only on our national security because that much is obvious – but our food security and our economic security are greatly affected,” Lacson said during the hearing.

Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense And Security, batted for “proactive efforts” to call the attention of the international community to pressure China into respecting the arbitral ruling in The Hague that upheld the Philippines rights over areas on the WPS.

He likewise pushed anew for maintaining a balance of power in the region with the Philippines’ like-minded and militarily capable allies such as the United States, Australia and European Union.

“One course of action we can take is to appeal to the international community to exert whatever political pressure they can have on China to comply with the ruling. It cannot be sought by war especially in this day and age of modern technological warfare where nobody wins,” Lacson said.