Press Release
October 23, 2023

Tolentino: Maritime Zones law urgent

MANILA -- Senator Francis "Tol" Tolentino said Monday the passage of the country's Maritime Zones law is urgent and long overdue especially after the collision of Philippine and Chinese vessels on Sunday.

"This is urgent because it is needed. This was needed 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or 15 years ago so we have to pass this," said Tolentino at the continuation of the Senate hearing into the proposed Maritime Zones Act.

Tolentino, who led the hearing as Chairman of the Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, mentioned the urgency of the said law after getting the firm backing of Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra and other key government agencies

When Tolentino asked about the bill's relevance, the Solicitor General said that signatory states of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will be obliged to adhere to Philippine laws on its territorial waters once the country enacts the proposed Maritime Zones Bill.

"This is essentially a reflection of the relevant provisions of the UNCLOS to which more than a hundred countries are members, and therefore, if we have a law like this, which is a reflection of an international convention where the members comprise practically the entire international community, there is an expectation of an obligation on the part of these members states to comply with our own laws," Guevarra said.

"These are the laws of the coastal state and therefore, all the flag states with vessels plying, for example, our maritime waters, would have also a duty to comply enacted laws by the coastal state like the Philippines," he added.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) also voiced its strong support for the immediate enactment of the bill.

"I think the passage of the Maritime Zones [Bill] would help the Philippine Coast Guard, as a law enforcement agency, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in clearly identifying the maritime zones of the Philippines," PCG spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela said in the hearing.

"With respect [to] the incident that happened in Ayungin Shoal, which falls within the Exclusive Economic Zone of our country, I think the passage of a Maritime Zones [Bill] would clearly strengthen our defined zones in our maritime jurisdiction," he added.

Tolentino said that a select technical working group will be convened to refine the bill in early November to enable both the House of Representatives and the Senate to tackle the measure, which is part of the priority bills espoused by President Bongbong Marcos.

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