NEDA pushes bill protecting maritime territories in a bid to tap P1-T ‘blue economy’

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
south china sea
While President Duterte did not refer to China by name, his warning came after security officials reported that Beijing had been deploying warships in Philippine territorial waters without proper coordination.
AFP / Guang Niu

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government is looking into tapping the country’s P1-trillion “blue economy” by pushing for a bill that will establish sea lanes to protect the country’s maritime territory.

“Because there is no general declaration of what territories are so you would have some encroachment being done by our neighbors,” Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said at a press conference Monday.

“We claim that it’s an encroachment but actually we don’t have it in writing — we don’t have any document that says this is actually ours,” Edillon added.

China claims most of the contested South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, and has rejected a UN-backed international tribunal ruling that said its assertion to the Sea is without legal basis.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that China’s maritime encroachment is the “gravest external threat” to the Philippines since World War II as the Southeast Asian nation could “lose an area larger than the combined, total land area of the Philippines” including “all the fish, oil, gas and mineral resources here.”

Amid multiple sightings of Chinese warships in waters claimed by the Philippines, Carpio last year said President Rodrigo Duterte should certify as an urgent measure the Archipelagic Sea Lanes Passage bill.

The bill seeks to designate Philippine maritime lanes and air routes where foreign vessels and aircraft can exercise the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage.

Carpio said the bill must be passed into law because under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, a coastal state cannot require foreign commercial vessels and warships exercising innocent passage to ask permission or prior notification.

“The law can require foreign ships exercising the right to archipelagic sea lane passage to turn on their Automatic Identification System and for submarines to surface and show their flag,” Carpio explained.

“The bill has been pending in Congress for years now. The president should certify it as an urgent measure,” he added.

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