Senate urged to act on PH sea lanes bill

/ 09:22 AM June 14, 2024

West Philippine Sea

(INQUIRER file photo/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ)

MANILA, Philippines — Following the sighting of Chinese warships in the Basilan Strait in Mindanao, the Senate on Friday was urged to pass a bill that would define the country’s sea lanes and deter the intrusion of foreign vessels and aircraft in the Philippine territory, particularly the West Philippine Sea.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez made the appeal in a statement issued Friday, pertaining to his House Bill No. 9034.

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He specifically sought the Senate’s approval of the measure as soon as “Congress starts its third and last regular session.”

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“We should take all measures to protect our nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Chinese are not only intruding in the western part of our country but in the south as well,” said Rodriguez.

“As usual, we should expect adverse reactions from the Chinese, which we should ignore. Let’s think only of our national interest,” he added.

Rodriguez said HB 9034 was approved by the lower chamber on third and final reading in December 2023.

It was immediately transmitted to the Senate the following day.

A quick look at the Senate’s website would show that the bill was already considered in Senate Bill No. 2665, otherwise known as the Philippine Archipelagic Sealanes Act, which already reached the chamber’s plenary for sponsorship in May.

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Rodriguez said his bill sets the coordinates designating the sea lanes and air routes for the continuous and expeditious sailing or flight of foreign ships and aircraft exercising the right of innocent passage.

The lawmaker said non compliance by foreign civilian ships and aircraft with pertinent provisions of the bill constitutes a violation of existing fisheries, environmental, customs, fiscal, immigration, sanitary, and other pertinent laws.

“If the non-compliance does not constitute a violation of existing laws, the same shall be punishable by imprisonment of 6 months and one 1 day 2 years and 2 months or a fine of US$1,200,000.00 or its equivalent in Philippine currency, or both such imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the court,” his bill reads.

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TAGS: Senate, West Philippine Sea

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