DFA: PH maritime zones act to ‘harmonize’ domestic law with UNCLOS

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 28, 2024, 9:55 pm

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday welcomed the Senate approval of the Philippine Maritime Zones Bill on the third and final reading, saying it would harmonize the country’s law with the international treaty on the seas.

“As one of the President's priority legislative measures, the bill is a crucial step for the Philippines to put its archipelagic house in order and to harmonize its domestic law with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the DFA said in a statement.

“We look forward to its enactment so that (the Philippines) could effectively enforce its relevant domestic laws and related international laws to protect its marine and fish resources, preserve and conserve its marine environment, and enhance maritime safety and security,” it added.

While the Philippines is a signatory to the UNCLOS, the proposed measure's explanatory note said it does not automatically transform the treaty as domestic law.

Once enacted, the measure is expected to declare the country’s maritime zones based on the standards set by the UNCLOS and eventually the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, which itself was also based on UNCLOS.

The DFA said the measure would codify the status and regime of the waters inside the archipelagic baselines and redefine the extent of Philippine territorial sea, including the contiguous zone.

The contiguous zone extends up to 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the territorial sea is measured.

The Senate passed the Senate Bill No. 2492 or the Philippine Maritime Zones Act on Monday.

In a separate interview, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Senate approval shows that the government is “serious about not giving up any one of our territorial sovereignty”.

“So we will do everything, including making laws on maritime security so forth and so on,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Consular Corps of the Philippines meeting in Makati.

“All that is part and parcel of our total pushback in making sure that we are coordinated and we want to protect our shores,” he added. (PNA)