Senators want Sabah claim included in proposed PH Maritime Zones bill

By Leonel Abasola

January 31, 2024, 4:01 pm

<p>File photo</p>

File photo

MANILA – Senator Robin Padilla said he intends to propose an amendment on the definition of baseline under the Maritime Zone bill, to include the Philippines’ position on Sabah.

Padilla made this remark during Tuesday night’s interpellation of the proposed bill as he urged the government to assert its claim not only over its territory in the West Philippine Sea but over Sabah.

He said Sabah has many natural resources that can be used by Filipinos, especially those in Muslim Mindanao.

"Ganoon din nating ipaglaban ang ating karapatan sa Sabah. Hindi ito usapin lang ng maliit na isla. Ito, malaking lupa ito. Ito ay may langis, may minerals (at) talagang dapat nakikinabang ang Pilipino sa Sabah ngayon pa lang. Paano natin ginigiit sa isla sa West Philippine Sea, dapat ay igiit natin ang karapatan natin sa Sabah pero di tayo humihingi ng gulo (We must fight for our rights in Sabah. We are talking not of small islands but of a large land mass. It has oil, minerals and Filipinos should benefit from these now. If we can assert our rights in the West Philippine Sea, so must we do the same but in a peaceful manner)," he said.

He noted that the Philippines already has a law - Republic Act 5446, signed in August 1968 - regarding Sabah as a territory over which the Philippines has acquired "dominion and sovereignty."

In his first privilege speech in 2022, Padilla pushed for the Philippines to assert its rights over Sabah.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Tolentino, who sponsored the proposed Senate Bill (SB) 2294 or Philippine Maritime Zones Act, agreed to include a line that the Philippines is not abandoning its claim to Sabah, so long as it is phrased properly.

"Kung magagawa ng tamang lengwahe ang pag amyenda di ako tututol (If we can phrase it properly, I will not object to the amendment) as long as it will strengthen not just the bill but our resolve that what is rightfully ours should be ours,” he said.

Under SB 2294, the primary objective of the proposed measure is to declare the Philippines’ maritime zones based on the standards set by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The House of Representatives has already approved its own version of the bill – House Bill (HB) 7819 in May last year, defining the maximum extent of territorial sea (12 nautical miles), contiguous zone (24 nautical miles), exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles) and continental shelf.

It also allows the delineation of continental shelves extending beyond 200 nautical miles, in accordance with Article 76 of the UNCLOS. (PNA)