Manila: In Manila, a significant legislative development unfolded as a House leader emphasized the crucial role of the proposed Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act in safeguarding national sovereignty. During a recent plenary session, Maria Rachel Arenas, chair of the House foreign affairs committee, underscored the importance of House Bill 9034 in defining the Philippines' maritime boundaries. This move is seen as a direct response to challenges to the nation's sovereignty by other countries.
According to Philippines News Agency, the bill aims to establish a clear and undisputed delineation of archipelagic sea lanes (ASLs) within Philippine waters. The legislation is designed to assert the country's sovereignty and protect its maritime domain from arbitrary international passage. Arenas highlighted the bill's significance in maintaining the Philippines' strategic objectives and national interests, free from external influences.
The bill grants the President the authority to determine the coordinates of these designated sea lanes, with the flexibility to modify them based on national security concerns, environmental preservation, and navigational safety. Arenas stated that the enactment of this bill would strengthen the Philippines' position in maritime security and provide leverage in regional maritime dynamics.
Arenas also pointed out the potential risks to the country's marine ecosystems if ASLs are not designated. The unrestricted movement of foreign vessels could pose a threat to the integrity of the Philippines' coral reefs and diverse marine life. The preservation of marine biodiversity is thus a critical aspect of this legislative initiative.
The House of Representatives has approved the bill on its second reading. The bill outlines the rights and responsibilities of foreign ships and aircraft during archipelagic sea lane passage and includes penalties for foreign civilian vessels and aircraft that violate its provisions.