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Bill on Philippine maritime zones reaches Senate plenary

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REUTERS

A SENATE bill that seeks to set Philippine maritime zones and territories extending to disputed areas in the South China Sea has been sponsored to the plenary.

At Tuesday’s plenary session, Senator Francis N. Tolentino sponsored Senate Bill No. 2492, the proposed Maritime Zones Act, which aims to establish the country’s maritime territories to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, among other areas.

“The Philippine Constitution has bestowed upon this august body the gargantuan task to safeguard national interest by ensuring that the necessary laws and policies are in place for the State to protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,” said the senator, who heads the Special Committee on Maritime Zones and Admiralty.

The measure also seeks to impose penalties against erring foreign actors in these maritime zones with fines of at least $600,000 (P33.30 million) payable to the Philippine Government.

It would also include the Benham Rise in the West Pacific among the Philippines’ maritime territories and define the country’s contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

Mr. Tolentino said adopting the measure was crucial to ensure the country’s national interests in protecting its resources within its waters.

The Senate should fast-track the measure amid tensions with China in the disputed waterway, he earlier said.

“The Philippine Maritime Zones Act of 2023 will be inscribed as a pivotal moment in our maritime history,” Mr. Tolentino said. “With the passage of this Maritime Zones Act, Mr. President, we are taking a firm stand.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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