A PHILIPPINE senator has filed a bill that seeks to assert the country’s rights in the South China Sea by formalizing the designation of its claimed territory as West Philippine Sea through legislation.
Under Senate Bill 405, the identified maritime area — including the air space, seabed, and subsoil — will be officially named as the West Philippine Sea or the Kanlurang Dagat ng Pilipinas as part of the Philippines’ “inherent right to designate the names of its maritime areas.”
“As patriotic citizens, we should assert our sovereign rights over our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources,” Senator Francis N. Tolentino said in a statement on Wednesday.
This, he added, is consistent with the 2016 Award of the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the waterway based on a 1940 nine-dash line map.
The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.
The senator filed the measure in response to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, where the Philippines was granted a territorial sea of up to 12 nautical miles, a contiguous zone of up to 24 nautical miles, and an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles where the South China Sea is located.
Under the proposed law, territories under the South China Sea will include the Luzon Sea; the waters around, within, and adjacent to the Spratly Islands, locally known as the Kalayaan Island Group, in Palawan; and the Scarborough Shoal, also known as the Bajo de Masinloc, in Zambales; among others.
The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority will be mandated to produce and publish charts and maps of the Philippines once the bill passes into law.
The bill requires the national government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, to deposit a copy of the law and other relevant documents with the secretary general of the United Nations to notify all relevant international and intergovernmental organizations.
It also directs the Philippine government, private institutions, organizations and establishments operating within the country to use and employ the name West Philippine Sea or Kanlurang Dagat ng Pilipinas in all communications, messages, and public documents, and “to popularize the use of such name with the general public, both domestically and internationally.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan