Philippine Senator Sponsors Bill to Protect Fishing Grounds, Biodiversity

Philippine Senator Francis Tolentino co-sponsors Senate Bill 2665 to establish Philippine sea lanes and protect fishing grounds from foreign encroachment. The bill aims to safeguard the country's maritime domain and sovereignty, with penalties for violating vessels and aircraft.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Philippine Senator Sponsors Bill to Protect Fishing Grounds, Biodiversity

Philippine Senator Sponsors Bill to Protect Fishing Grounds, Biodiversity

Philippine Senator Francis N. Tolentino has co-sponsored Senate Bill 2665, also known as the "Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act," to safeguard the country's fishing grounds and key biodiversity areas from foreign encroachment. The bill aims to establish Philippine sea lanes in the Balintang Channel, the Celebes and Sulu Seas, and other waterways, amid rising tensions with China over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Why this matters: The protection of Philippine fishing grounds and biodiversity areas has significant implications for the country's food security and economic stability. If left unchecked, foreign encroachment could lead to the depletion of marine resources, exacerbating poverty and hunger among Filipino communities.

The proposed measure defines Philippine Archipelagic Waters along three axis lines connecting the Philippine Sea, Balintang Channel, and the South China Sea. It bars foreign ships and aircraft from conducting war games and military exercises within the sea lanes. The bill also prohibits foreign civilian ships and aircraft from unauthorized fishing, research, and unloading of goods within Philippine sea lanes.

Under the bill, foreign vessels and aircraft that violate the law would face penalties of six months to two years imprisonment or a fine of $1.2 million, or both. The master of the ship or the captain of the aircraft would be held liable for the penalties. "It is hereby the declared policy of the state to ensure the protection of its maritime domain and to safeguard the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of national territory," the bill states.

Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, who co-sponsored the bill, emphasized the importance of protecting the dignity and livelihood of Filipino fishermen who have been harassed and bullied by foreign entities, particularly the Chinese, in the West Philippine Sea. "Teaching our people to fish for them to thrive for a lifetime would be senseless if they are forcibly driven away from their traditional fishing spot within our exclusive economic zone," Dela Rosa said. "It is a matter of dignity, and this Senate's recognition of it. Dignity, for livelihood and sustenance. Dignity, in continuing to defend and stand for what is rightfully ours."

The Committee Report of Senate Bill No. 2665 was dated May 8, and Senator Tolentino, who chairs the Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, is set to sponsor the Committee Report before the plenary on Monday. The proposed measure comes as a response to the long-standing issue of foreign encroachment in Philippine waters, which has affected the livelihood of Filipino fishermen. By establishing Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes, the bill aims to provide a guarantee from the government to protect the country's fishing grounds and key biodiversity areas, ensuring the dignity and livelihood of Filipino fishermen.

Key Takeaways

  • Philippine Senator Francis Tolentino co-sponsors bill to protect fishing grounds and biodiversity areas.
  • Bill aims to establish Philippine sea lanes in disputed waters, including South China Sea.
  • Foreign ships and aircraft banned from military exercises and unauthorized activities.
  • Violators face 6 months to 2 years imprisonment or $1.2 million fine.
  • Bill seeks to protect dignity and livelihood of Filipino fishermen from foreign encroachment.