Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that seeks to establish the country’s archipelagic sea lanes amid heightened tensions between the China Coast Guard and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) at the West Philippine Sea following the former’s malicious maneuvers that include the use of water cannon against PCG vessels on a resupply mission.
“It is critical and imperative that we pass legislation that would designate the country’s archipelagic sea lanes to protect the country’s national security, and economic and environmental interests, particularly in the West Philippine Sea,” Gatchalian said as he filed Senate Bill 2395 known as the Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act.
“Kailangan nating siguruhin na mapoprotektahan ang seguridad at soberanya ng bansa kabilang ang kapakanan ng mga kababayan nating mangingisda na pumapalaot sa ating karagatan sa West Philippine Sea,” he added.
Existing laws already aligned the country’s archipelagic baseline system with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which the Philippines is a signatory, according to Gatchalian.
Aside from the establishment of archipelagic sea lanes in Philippine archipelagic waters, the measure also seeks to protect the country’s ecological integrity by prohibiting fishing, marine bioprospecting, exploitation of marine resources, unauthorized research and survey statistics, and dumping of wastes and other noxious substances.
If enacted into law, the proposed measure, among others, will prohibit foreign ships or aircraft from conducting unauthorized research and survey activities as well as fishing, marine bioprospecting, loading, and unloading of persons, goods, or currency.
Gatchalian emphasized that the proposed measure supports UNCLOS which recognizes the sovereignty of the archipelagic states over its archipelagic waters, the air space above them, the seabed and subsoil below them, and the resources contained therein. UNCLOS also affords all ships and aircraft archipelagic sea lanes which may be designated by the archipelagic state.
The Senate recently adopted a resolution urging the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring to international attention China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The 2016 arbitral ruling invalidated China’s claims to historic rights and resources within its nine-dash line. It also confirmed China’s violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the disputed area as well as its marine environmental protection obligations under the UNCLOS.