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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Senators push for Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes bill amid fresh China threats

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The establishment of Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes would ensure that foreign ships and aircraft exercising freedom of navigation shall not engage in threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of the Philippines.

“They also cannot engage in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations (UN),” Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, one of the authors of the proposed measure under Senate Bill No. 2665, said over the weekend.

His statement comes after China released a statement, threatening to arrest foreigners without trial that would trespass in its highly militarized areas in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The proposed “Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes bill was already sent to the Senate plenary.

Senator Francis Tolentino, also author and major sponsor of the measure, said the bill aims to establish a system of sea lanes in the Philippine waters by connecting the coordinates of the following access lines:

·         Philippine Sea-Balintang Channel-WPS

·         Celebes Sea-Sibutu Passage-Sulu Sea-Cuyo East Pass-Mindoro Strait-WPS

·         Celebes Sea-Basilan Strait-Sulu Sea-Nasubata Channel-Balabac Strait-WPS

Tolentino cited the need for archipelagic sea lanes since the Philippines is made up of 7,641 islands.

“The international community afforded us the right to do so, and we have earned our legal and international recognition in no less than the UN Convention of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Tolentino said.

As embodied in the proposed bill, our fishing grounds and key biodiversity areas in Philippine waters would be protected.

Tolentino said the measure aims to not only give Filipino fishermen a fighting chance in sustaining their livelihoods, but also an assurance from the government that they will be protected from foreign encroachment.

“This will safeguard the integrity of our national territory,” added Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa lamented that for the past decades, our fishermen have been on the receiving end of harassment and bullying from the Chinese.

“In a situation where the choice is between your survival or your untimely end, what will be the use of being taught how to fish?” he said.

He pointed out that teaching our people to fish for them to thrive for a lifetime would be useless if they are forcibly driven away from their traditional fishing spot within our exclusive economic zone.

Furthermore, the senator pointed out that it is not only the threat or use of force which is prohibited, but also marine pollution.

According to Dela Rosa, once enacted into law, this will be a testament to the Senate’s commitment to fight for our rightful claim to the WPS.

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