Tolentino

Senate Maritime Committee approves Archipelagic Sealanes Bill

February 21, 2024 People's Journal 105 views

Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino formed a technical working group (TWG) to fine tune the consolidated bills designating archipelagic sea lanes (ASLs) in the Philippines.

Under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an archipelagic state like the Philippines, may designate ASLs for “continuous and expeditious passage of foreign ships and aircraft through or over its archipelagic waters and the adjacent territorial sea.”

The TWG formed by Tolentino, who is Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, will be composed of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Security Council (NSC), National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

“It’s about time to move forward especially with the current geopolitical climate— to form a TWG that would consolidate all the six measures including the House Bill calling for the adoption of the ASL,” Sen. Tol said during the panel’s deliberation on the bills.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Teodoro Locsin, who is also the Philippine Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) affirmed the need for the ASL law.

“We are [one of] the only two serious archipelagos on the planet. As sprawling archipelagos, we are most vulnerable in this particular aspect; our major islands are the sizes of many countries; the waterways between them offer wide approaches. We can be taken piecemeal,” Locsin remarked.

While the Ambassador explained that “it will take some time” for the IMO to adopt the Philippine proposal for ASLs, he expressed strong support on starting the conduct immediately.

The ASL measures subject to refinement by the TWG proposes three ASLs namely the Philippine Sea Balintang Channel WPS, Celebes Sea Sibutu Passage-Sulu Sea Cuyo East Pass Mindoro Strait WPS. and Celebes-Sea Basilan Strait Sulu Sea- Nasubata Channel Balabac Strait.

Several experts from different agencies and the academe also collectively reminded the Committee to observe proper process in pushing for the ASL.

Tolentino, concluding the hearing, said that the expected output of the TWG will include a provision where the President, will be given authority to designate the ASLs.

The Maritime Panel Chairman further concluded that the final measure to be submitted to the Senate Plenary will be finished by March, before Holy Week.

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