The House of Representatives has approved the Philippine Maritime Zones Act, which defines the country’s territorial waters and jurisdiction over its coastal areas.
House Bill 4889, which spells out the provisions of the proposed Act, defines the country’s sovereign rights or jurisdiction over its maritime zones, including “exclusive rights to explore and exploit living and non-living, organic or non-organic 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.
The chamber passed the measure on third and final reading before the Congress adjourned for its traditional Christmas break.
HB 4889 was authored by Rep. Al Francis Bichara, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, along with Representatives Francisco Acedillo, Rodolfo Biazon and Jose Zubiri III.
The other co-authors include Representatives Julieta Cortuna of the A-TEACHER partylist and Rep. Roy Seneres of the OFW partylist. Both groups are allies of the National Unity Party (NUP) under the Coalition for Peace and Development.
Representatives Sonny Collantes, Sherwin Gatchalian, Raul Del Mar, Victor Ortega, Rufus Rodriguez, George Arnaiz, Maria Zenaida Angping, Walden Bello, Gwendolyn F. Garcia, and Maximo Rodriguez are also co-authors of the measure.
“The proposed statute seeks to provide for the necessary flexibility in the enactment of subsequent laws pertinent to the rights and obligations to which the Philippines is entitled to and may exercise over its maritime zones in accordance with the UNCLOS,” the authors said.
HB 4889 states that “the maritime zones of the country shall be comprised of the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf. All territories of the Philippines shall generate their respective maritime zones in accordance with international law.”
“If the maritime zones of the Philippines overlap with the maritime zones claimed by other countries, the Philippines shall delimit these zones and endeavor to resolve the overlaps according to the recognized means under international law,” the authors underscored.
Under the bill, archipelagic baselines refer to the baselines as defined under RA 9522 entitled, “An act to amend certain provisions of RA 3046, as amended by RA 5446, to define the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippines and for other purposes.”
Archipelagic waters shall refer to the waters on the landward side of the archipelagic baselines except as provided for under the provisions defining the internal waters of the country.
Territorial sea refers “to the belt of sea measured 12 nautical miles from the baselines or from the low-water line, as the case may be.”
The Contiguous Zone are “waters beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea and up to the extent of 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured,” as defined in HB 4889.
The bill defines the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone of the country as “the waters beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea and up to the extent of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”
The Continental Shelf of the Philippines shall be “comprised of the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance,” the bill also states.
The authors stressed that the Philippines shall exercise sovereign rights over the mentioned areas, including the right to explore and exploit its resources according to UNCLOS and existing laws and treaties.