Explanation of Vote of Senator Joel VillanuevaOn Senate Bill No. 2492 or the Philippine Maritime Zones Act


26 February 2024

Mr. President, dear colleagues:
It is with immense pride and honor that I vote YES to this historic measure. The Philippine Maritime Zones Act, co-authored and co-sponsored by this representation, is a landmark legislation that will reinforce our rights as an archipelagic state, and will be part of the legal, political, and diplomatic strategies of the Philippines in enforcing the rule of law in our maritime domain. Binibigyang diin at ngipin ng panukalang batas na ito ang integridad ng ating teritoryo, na kinikilala ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), at ang makasaysayang tagumpay natin sa Permanent Court of Arbitration sa Hague noong 2016.
We congratulate the Sponsor, the Chairperson of the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones Sen. Francis Tolentino, for swiftly shepherding the passage of this measure. We thank him for specifically clarifying that our Contiguous Zone extends to a distance of 24 nautical miles and that our Exclusive Economic Zone extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines, meaning we are claiming entitlement under UNCLOS. 
We also thank him for accepting our amendments which: 
1) clarified the acts being penalized under Section 16
of the bill and 
2) emphasized that only the high tide features of the
Kalayaan Island Group of the West Philippine Sea are capable of generating a territorial sea under Article 121 of the UNCLOS.

As we vote Yes to this measure today, we reiterate our commitment to protect our sovereign rights and preserve our territorial integrity, and our commitment to upholding an international order based on international law.
In closing, allow me to share with you an excerpt from the famous essay written by the great Filipino diplomat, statesman, and soldier Carlos P. Romulo Sr., which I think is apt for this momentous occasion:
“I am a Filipino–inheritor of a glorious past, hostage to the
uncertain future. As such I must prove equal to a two-fold task– the task of meeting my responsibility to the past, and the task of performing my obligation to the future. I sprung from a hardy race, child of many generations…By the strength of their hearts and hands, by every right of law, human and divine, this land and all the appurtenances thereof… the whole of this rich and happy land has been, for centuries without number, the land of my fathers. This land I received in trust from them and in trust will pass it to my children, and so on until the world is no more.”
I believe that this law and all our efforts to protect our territorial integrity are among the greatest legacies we can leave for future generations of Filipinos. Thank you, Mr. President, and may God bless our country.

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