The inaugural meeting of the Senate Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones took place as scheduled with Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino presiding, on Thursday, September 14, 2023.

This newly established committee was created following the Senate’s approval of Senate Resolution No. 76.

Its primary jurisdiction is to examine and provide reports on various matters, including legislative proposals related to archipelagic baselines, maritime zones, archipelagic sea lands, and related issues.

Senator Tolentino emphasized the significance of this committee’s formation in light of recent tensions in the West Philippine Sea, escalating concerns about food prices, and the announcement of impending increases in electricity prices.

He stressed the importance of the Senate’s support in safeguarding the extensive Philippine maritime zones, which encompass the territorial sea and the vast exclusive economic zone.

This initiative to create an updated Philippine map is a response to China’s unveiling of its new national map, which features a contentious 10-dash-line.

Senator Francis Tolentino disclosed that the committee anticipates conducting approximately five hearings as part of its effort to craft a comprehensive national map.

Jonathan Malaya, spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC), clarified that the Senate’s map project would differ from the NSC’s ongoing mapping efforts.

Senator Tolentino previously introduced Senate Bill 2294, known as the Philippine Maritime Zones Act. This bill seeks to establish maritime zones under Philippine jurisdiction, following the guidelines established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Unlike the Philippine Baselines Law, SB 2294 would encompass exclusive economic zones (EEZs), the continental shelf, and subterranean features within the country’s domain, including the Benham Rise and Philippine Rise.

In addition to delineating the geographical scope of the Philippine maritime domain, the bill aims to clarify the legal authorities that the Philippines may exercise within these zones.

Recent developments include Beijing’s release of a 10-dash-line map, which expanded its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

In response, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against this map, which overlaps with its own EEZ. (ai/mnm)