Philippine Lawmakers Urge Presidential Approval of Maritime Zones Bill to Counter WPS Aggression

CAGAYAN DE ORO—In an effort to fortify the Philippines’ stance against China’s assertive actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Representative Rufus Rodriguez has called on President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to sign the Philippine Maritime Zones bill. This legislation aims to enhance the country’s capability to uphold its maritime and sovereign rights amidst ongoing tensions and incursions by China into its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

According to Philippines News Agency, the bill’s enactment is critical for reinforcing the Philippines’ claims in the WPS and supporting the enforcement of these claims by defense and military forces. President Marcos, speaking at the 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, expressed his eagerness to sign the bill, highlighting its role in delineating the geographic scope of the Philippines’ maritime domain.

Rodriguez emphasized that the passage of House Bill 7819 is aligned with international norms, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision that dismissed Beijing’s extensive claims over the South China Sea, including areas within the WPS. He noted that UNCLOS permits countries to define their maritime boundaries, a provision that this bill seeks to utilize fully.

Further discussions about the bill were conducted in an executive session led by Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino, who discussed the ratified maritime zones bill with Executive Secretary Lucas Besamin. The proposed law includes the definition of national maritime territories such as Scarborough Shoal (locally known as Bajo de Masinloc) and the surrounding waters, which are crucial fishing areas for Filipinos but have seen repeated instances of harassment by Chinese forces.

The urgency of the bill’s signing has increased following recent actions by China, including the issuance of regulations that allow its coast guard to detain individuals deemed to be trespassing in the WPS. These developments underscore the growing geopolitical tensions in the region and the need for a clear legal framework to support the Philippines’ maritime sovereignty.