Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the Senate committee  on Foreign Affairs, which he chairs, will conduct an inquiry into a proposed law that seeks to declare the country’s maritime zones amid China’s West Philippine Sea (WPS) incursions.

He  said they will seek international law experts’ recommendations on Senate Bill 2289 or the Philippine Maritime Zones Act.

He said there is also a school of thought that the law is not needed.

“We already have the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. If the principle is just duplicated,” he said. 

The bill, introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto III,  proposes the creation of a maritime zone map similar to China’s nine-dash-line which it has been using in mis-representing its claims in the WPS and other areas in the South China Sea. 

Protecting  the country’s sovereign rights, Sotto  said, will be easier if the country comes up with its own map which will define the maritime zones under Philippine jurisdiction. 

The proposed measure also aims to identify maritime zones, archipelagic waters, and territorial zones of the country.

“We should not, we cannot, give up what is ours without exhausting every available option,” said Sotto who is running for vice-president under Nationalist People’s Coalition where he is the president.

If necessary, Sotto said the Philippines can call out its foreign allies to protect and defend its maritime territories. 

He also said, “the Philippine government can initiate a review of its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States to browbeat China.” 

“If China will learn that we are reviewing our MDT and EDCA with the US, I’m sure they will think (first before) fighting us on  this issue. If I were  them, I will go slow. If they will force ownership of this  Highway 54 of the sea trade, the most important international trading area, we can invoke MDT and EDCA,”  explained Sotto.

He likewise reiterated his proposal that the government tap the vast maritime treasures in the WPS.

“There is a part there on entering defense and security arrangement with other nations. We need to talk about that and its meaning. Personally, I don’t want it to be militarized… if there is a disputed area let’s not have it militarized. Let’s make the international law as our rule,” explained Pimentel. 

He asserted the Philippine position that Ayungin Shoal is within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

“Hence no state can demand that we do something within our EEZ against our will or our interest,” he pointed out.

“Since quick action is needed in issues which are sensitive or charged with tension, let us allow the Executive Branch to take charge of the current situation,” further stated Pimentel.

Lacson filed the Senate Resolution 954 to denounce China’s continued presence and “hostile acts” within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.