MANILA — Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino on Thursday underscored that defining the Philippine maritime zones will “allow Filipinos to responsibly enjoy the bounty of the Philippines’ rich maritime and archipelagic waters.”

In the inaugural hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones chaired by Tolentino, he said: “Hindi po malayo sa sikmura ang kawalan ng maritime zones ng Pilipinas. Leaving the Philippine maritime zones largely undefined will slow our ability to responsibly exploit and develop our resources.”

He cited that the Philippines has been importing fish, but there’s a huge untapped potential in the disputed territory.

“The West Philippine Sea has almost 40 percent of the maritime domain, but accounts only for 6.36 percent of the total fisheries production of the country in 2022,” Sen. Tol said.

Likewise, the Maritime Zone panel chairman highlighted that the Filipinos have been experiencing high electricity prices but WPS has energy resources remaining idle.

The initial hearing gathered several domestic and foreign experts on maritime zone laws. Succeeding hearings are expected to finalize a Philippine map that the country can use as a legal basis for its territorial claim.  (AI/MNM)