MANILA – A House leader on Wednesday said the measure establishing the archipelagic sea lanes (ASLs) in the Philippine waters would serve as the country's "shield" against nations challenging its sovereignty.
In her sponsorship speech during the plenary session, House foreign affairs committee chair Maria Rachel Arenas said the enactment of House Bill 9034, or the proposed Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act, is crucial to solidify the integrity of the country's maritime domain and prevent arbitrary international passage in the Philippine archipelago.
"Asserting our sovereignty to delineate ASLs allows us to establish clear boundaries in alignment with our strategic objectives and ensures that the definition remains within the bound(s) of our national interest, free from external influence and interpretation," Arenas said.
The President is empowered under the bill to fix the coordinates of the designated sea lanes and substitute or add to them for compelling reasons relevant to national security, the preservation of key biodiversity areas, and the safety of navigation.
"Upon passage, this bill will undeniably fortify Philippine maritime security, furnishing us with substantial leverage to actively shape and influence the ever-evolving dynamics of the region's maritime environment," Arenas said.
Arenas also argued that non-designation of ASLs would leave the country's marine protected areas exposed and vulnerable.
"The unbridled passage of foreign vessels into Philippine waters poses a significant threat to the integrity of our precious coral reefs and the diverse marine life within the archipelago. Preserving our marine biodiversity, therefore, is a critical imperative," she said.
The chamber approved the bill on second reading.
The measure prescribes rights and obligations of foreign ships and aircraft exercising the right of archipelagic sea lane passage.
The bill also penalizes foreign civilian ships and aircraft violating provisions of the measure. (PNA)