Senator Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian is pushing for the enactment of legislation that would establish the Philippine maritime zones and in effect reinforce the 2016 landmark arbitral victory that the country secured against China.
This arbitral ruling invalidated Beijing’s so-called nine-dash line claim over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Gatchalian made this emphasis following a hearing conducted by the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones, stating that it will strengthen and help enforce the country’s claim over the WPS.
“Taking legal cognizance of the arbitral ruling is our best defense and the loudest message we can send around the world that we are asserting our sovereignty and our sovereign rights,” the senator said.
Gatchalian recently filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2394, or The Philippine Maritime Zones Act. It intends to clearly define the country’s maritime zones, harmonizing domestic laws on maritime territory with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“In effect, the 2016 arbitral ruling will be enshrined in our laws and this is going to be one of the strongest signals to the world that we are asserting sovereignty and asserting our exclusive economic zone and our sovereign rights in the region,” Gatchalian emphasized.
According to him, declaring the country’s maritime zone boundaries would mean the country would be fortifying the geographical extent of its maritime domain. He further stressed that enactment of local laws would enforce the country’s compliance with UNCLOS and thus enable the country to enjoy the rights and benefits of the convention.
Under the measure proposed by Gatchalian, the country’s maritime zones will comprise the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf in accordance with international law.
To enhance the Philippines’ national security and protect its economic and environmental interests, Gatchalian has also recently filed another bill seeking the designation of the country's archipelagic lanes.