CAGAYAN de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Friday urged President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. to immediately certify the bill defining the country’s maritime zones as urgent.
“Presidential certification of the measure will expedite its approval by the Senate and its final passage by the two chambers of Congress,” the Mindanao lawmaker said.
The House of Representatives passed the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act in May this year, while the Senate is still tackling its version of the bill. Rodriguez is one of the principal authors of the House version.
“The urgency of enacting a law that defines our maritime areas, including our 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), cannot be overemphasized in view of the aggressive activities of China in the West Philippine Sea and its continued encroachment on and intrusion into our EEZ,” Rodriguez said.
He said such a law would strengthen Philippine assertion and enforcement of its territorial and sovereign rights over its EEZ and the West Philippine Sea in accordance with international laws, agreements and conventions, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He said UNCLOS allows states to define their maritime boundaries.
He pointed out the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act, when enacted, would serve as the framework for settling territorial disputes between the Philippines and its neighbors, including China, in addition to international laws and the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.
“I am almost sure that we will soon have this law. This early, I am appealing to China to recognize it and to immediately stop encroaching and intruding in our EEZ and the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
At the same time, Rodriguez urged the Senate to pass its version of the maritime zones bill as soon as possible.
“Congress should have approved this bill years ago. Any delay in its enactment further benefits China,” he said.
The Senate started tackling its version of the proposed law on Tuesday. It was endorsed by the special committee on Philippine maritime and admiralty zones chaired by Sen. Francis Tolentino.
“It is now the time for Congress, particularly the Senate of the Philippines, to stand up for what is ours and take this fundamental step in ensuring that our national interests in Philippine waters are protected, by passing this law that will govern the seas and resources of the Philippines for generations to come,” Tolentino said in endorsing Senate Bill (SB) No. 2492.