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Maritime Zones Act: Crucial Piece of Legislation Passes Second Reading

[PRESS RELEASE]


Published: 22 Feb | 17:00

Last Edited: 22 Feb | 17:55


After the acceptance of the individual amendments of Senator Robin Padilla and Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., on Senate Bill No. 2492, otherwise known as the Philippine Maritime Zones Act of 2023, the bill was approved on second reading. The bipartisan backing of the bill highlights its importance in safeguarding the Philippines’ maritime domain.


The Maritime Zones (MZ) Act, sponsored by Senator Francis Tolentino, aims to clearly delineate the maritime zones of the Philippines as specified by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, in so doing, will provide clear definitions of Philippine maritime entitlements as outlined in UNCLOS and other pertinent international regulations. The MZ Act has the effect of strengthening the Philippines’ overall maritime governance framework.

 

In discussing his amendment, Senator Padilla emphasized the imperative need for the Philippines to continue to reflect on the Maritime Zones Act and other relevant legislations - that they still firmly stand by the Philippines’ claims over Sabah and that the rights of the nation over this territory are clearly expressed. Senator Padilla acknowledged the importance of diplomacy and of the Philippines’ relationship with Malaysia; however, this should not be a stumbling block to stress sovereignty in the country’s domestic laws. In response,  Senator Tolentino reaffirms the enduring nature of the Philippines' claim to Sabah, emphasizing its cultural, historical, and heritage significance. While the Philippines has been a party to numerous international conventions, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, the country’s position on Sabah remains firm.


Senator Tolentino accepted the amendment proposed by Senator Padilla with a slight modification. The revised amendment incorporates Sec. 2 of RA 9522, which mentions the Kalayaan Group of Islands and the Bajo de Masinloc, aimed to make the statement more broad and expansive to include the Philippines’ interests as contained in the 2016 Arbitral Ruling. The new amended statement now reads: 


“All other laws, presidential decrees, executive orders, rules and regulations, proclamations, and other issuances inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of this Act are deemed amended or repealed accordingly: Provided,  That nothing in this Act shall be construed as repealing  Section 2 of Republic Act No. 5446, as amended, and Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9522.”


Sen. Pimentel sought clarification on the definition of internal waters within the ongoing discussions on the Maritime Zones bill. Senator Tolentino highlighted the difference between the Constitutional and the UNCLOS definitions, affirming that, for clarity and legislative history, the concept of archipelagic waters aligns with the constitutional understanding of internal waters. Furthermore, Senator Pimentel underscored the legal distinction between Article 1 of the 1987 Constitution, primarily addressing National Territory, and the MZ bill, which is exclusively focused on defining maritime zones. 


As previously mentioned by Sen. Tolentino during his sponsorship speech, the MZ Act can be seen as a foundational policy that will help the Philippines manage, protect, regulate, develop, and sustainably utilize its marine wealth and maritime spaces. 


The bill reached this stage 15 years after the baselines law, 30 years after UNCLOS became effective, and 42 years after UNCLOS signed.


Mr Julio Amador, Senior Adviser of Waypoints, also highlighted the crucial role played by the MZ Act and how it can positively impact other relevant legislation:


The approval of the proposed Maritime Zones Act on 2nd reading underscores the importance that the Marcos Administration has placed on governing the Philippines’ maritime domain. I hope that the bill is signed into law soon because there are other important pending bills that depend on the passage of this law such as the Blue Economy bill and the Archipelagic Sea Lanes bill. Both Houses of Congress should be commended for taking a serious stand on this important matter of national interest.”


NOTHING FOLLOWS

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