MANILA – Senate Bill (SB) 2492 or the Philippine Maritime Zones Act earned support from senators as it was ushered into plenary by Senator Francis Tolentino on Tuesday.
Tolentino, who cited SB 2492 as a foundational bill of Congress, said it would enable the country to fully enforce applicable maritime laws and enjoy its rights over its territory and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and pave the way for clarifying and updating relevant maritime laws and policies, which have been enacted before UNCLOS or the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.
"This will further fortify our rights and entitlements over our maritime zones and provide the country with a strong diplomatic negotiating tool in pursuing our interests therein," Tolentino said in his sponsorship speech.
The clear delineation of the maritime boundaries of the Philippines, he said, would help relevant government institutions in harnessing ocean resources and maritime spaces that are crucial in developing the country's blue economy potential.
Tolentino cited a study by Dr. Rhodora Azanza and her team, saying that the blue economy potential of the Philippines, using 2007 prices, is pegged at USD966 billion to USD1.5 trillion if the continental shelf is included.
"In sum, the Maritime Zones Law will help the Philippines in numerous ways and can even serve as a foundational policy that serves as the driving force for the Philippines to forge a comprehensive maritime security framework; advances the Philippine interest, most especially in terms of protecting, sustainably harnessing, and maximizing the Philippines' marine resources; provides guidance on the rights, duties, and entitlements of the Philippines on different maritime zones; and can be utilized to further the goals of other relevant maritime laws of the Philippines," Tolentino said.
Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Ramon Revilla Jr. moved to co-sponsor SB 2492.
Dela Rosa described the Philippine Maritime Zones as not just geographic delineations, but also the "lifelines (of) our nation."
"Their proper management, protection, and strategic development are essential for the continued growth and security of our county," he said.
Revilla, meanwhile, said SB 2492 would help the country assert its territory amid maritime security threats.
“Ang Pilipinas na duyan ng magiting ay hindi kailanman yuyuko at matitinag sa anumang intimidasyon o pananakot. At kailangan natin ng solido at matibay (na) pundasyon na tuntungan ng ating mga argumento, karapatan, at kapangyarihan. At iyan nga mismo ang layunin ng Philippine Maritime Zones Act (The Philippines will never bow down to any intimidation or threat. And we need a solid and strong foundation for our argument, rights, and power. That is the purpose of the Philippine Maritime Zones Act),” he said.
SB 2492 provides for a general declaration of the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Philippines, which shall also specify sea lanes, air routes, and natural resources within the country's EEZ.
The Senate decided to create the Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones and appointed Tolentino as chair after the House of Representatives unanimously approved in May House Bill 7819, declaring the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Philippines. (PNA)