Zubiri: Senate to prioritize passage of maritime zones bill

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(File photo of Senate president Miguel Zubiri)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 31) — Senate President Miguel Zubiri said the country could look forward to the swift passage of the proposed maritime zones act after China's release of its updated standard map showing its extended claim in the South China Sea.

"That is a priority of the Senate," Zubiri said at a briefing on Thursday. "We commit to you by the end of the year, before December, we will deliberate it during the budget deliberations. Isasabay namin to, ipapasa namin ang [we will pass the] Maritime Zones Act ni Sen. Tolentino and several senators. We are going to pass it."

In August, the chamber designated Sen. Francis Tolentino as chairman of a special panel on local maritime zones, following his call for the creation of a panel on admiralty matters to tackle maritime issues.

In May, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 7819 to define the country's waters.

During the briefing, Zubiri said he spoke with special representative to China Teodoro Locsin Jr. to discuss China's actions in the West Philippine Sea.

"Sabi niya [They said] they will exert more efforts both bilaterally internationally to condemn the actions of China, the repeated incursions and the dangerous maneuvers in the West Philippine Sea. I think we will not be alone this time, marami na tayo [there are many more]," Zubiri said.

"With this new 10-dash line ng China, feeling ko mapapabilis yong [I believe it will hasten the] code of conduct between the ASEAN countries because of this more brazen occupation of several countries and of course more brazen disrespect for one's sovereignty, for these countries' sovereignty," he added.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu confirmed in a Thursday briefing that Manila filed a diplomatic protest against the expanded 10-dash line.

The DFA said “[t]his latest attempt to legitimize China’s purported sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine features and maritime zones has no basis under international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

In a separate briefing, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año reiterated the country's position on the issue.

"We do not recognize the 10-dash line. We do not even recognize the 9-dash line, much more the 10-dash line. The arbitral award is final and binding, and it gives us our maritime entitlement," he said.

"There are already a lot of countries that adversely reacted to this 10-dash line -- India and Malaysia, and there will be more countries, I think to react adversely to this 10-dash line," Año added. "And we will continue to protect our territorial integrity and our national sovereignty. Our armed forces and our uniformed services, our government will do everything in its capacity to ensure that we are protecting our national interest."

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Zubiri said China’s move will only trigger more protests, especially from other claimant nations.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said China is delusional as it does everything it can to claim what is not theirs.

“This ‘map’ is Beijing’s desperate attempt to assert its lies and propaganda,” she said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel stressed that the Philippines is not obligated to recognize the territorial claims of other nations.