House approves proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act

By on December 19, 2014

(Malacanang stock photo)
(Malacanang stock photo)

MANILA — The House of Representatives, moments before adjourning for the Christmas break approved several vital measures including the proposed “Philippine Maritime Zones Act” contained in HB 4889.

HB 4889, authored by Chairman Al Francis Bichara of the sponsoring Committee on Foreign Affairs, with Reps. Francisco L. Acedillo, Rep. Rodolfo Biazon and Jose Zubiri III as co-principal authors, is entitled “An Act to define the Maritime Zones of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“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, following its second reading approval.

They pointed out that the country, being a signatory to the UNCLOS, recognizes the establishment of various maritime zones and jurisdictions of coastal states, including its own, over which sovereignty and appurtenant sovereign rights can be exercised.

“This bill is a general declaration and definition of the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Philippines,” the authors pointed out.

HB 4889 provides for the sovereign rights or jurisdiction over these maritime zones, acquiring for the country the exclusive rights to explore and exploit living and non-living, organic or non-organic resources found in these zones, in accordance with UNCLOS and other existing laws and treaties.

The bill 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.”

Archipelagic baselines, as used in the bill, shall refer to the baselines as defined under R.A. 9522 entitled, “An Act to amend certain provisions of R.A. 3046, as amended by R.A. 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 shall refer “to the belt of sea measured twelve (12) nautical miles from the baselines or from the low-water line, as the case may be.”

The Contiguous Zone shall refer to the “waters beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea and up to the extent of twenty-four (24) nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”

On the other hand, Exclusive Economic Zone of the country shall refer to “the waters beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea and up to the extent of two hundred (200) nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”

Likewise, the bill states that 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 two hundred (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 authors stressed that the Philippines shall exercise sovereign rights over the mentioned areas, including the right to explore and exploit its resources according to the UNCLOS and existing laws and treaties.

Furthermore, the bill provides that other rights not stipulated in this Act shall be exercised by the country in accordance with internal law and the law of the country.

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.

Other co-authors of the proposed statute include: Rep. Roy V. Seneres, Sr.; Rep. Julieta Cortuna; Rep. Sonny Collantes; Rep. Sherwin T. Gatchalian; Rep. Raul Del Mar; Rep. Victor Ortega; Rep. Rufus Rodriguez; Rep. George Arnaiz; Rep. Maria Zenaida Angping; Rep. Walden Bello; Rep. Gwendolyn F. Garcia; and Rep. Maximo Rodriguez.