By Billy Begas
Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rufus Rodriguez urged Congress to pass a measure that will define the country’s maritime areas and territory and counter the Chinese law allowing its coast guard to fire at perceived intruders in the entire South China Sea.
Rodriguez emphasized the need for the Philippines to strengthen its position on the West Philippine Sea.
Under Rodriguez’ House Bill 6156 the definition of the country’s maritime territory will include the Chinese-occupied Scarborough or Panatag Shoal off Zambales and Pangasinan, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc.
The Chinese Coast Guard routinely patrols this area. Recently, the Chinese government passed a law allowing its coast guard to fire on intruders putting fears on Filipino fishermen.
Rodriguez said the Philippines, as a signatory and party to the 1983 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “recognizes the establishment of various maritime zones and jurisdiction of coastal states, including its own, over which sovereignty and appurtenant sovereign rights can be exercised.”
He added that the Philippines should also exercise sovereign rights over its contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, including the right to explore and exploit living and nonliving, organic or nonorganic resources.
According to the bill, aside from its internal and archipelagic waters and territorial sea, the country’s maritime territory includes its 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that is measured from its shoreline and its continental shelf.
A large part of the Philippine EEZ is claimed by China, which has transformed some disputed islets in that area into military installations.