Maritime zones to address geopolitical risks — analysts

AN AERIAL VIEW shows the BRP Sierra Madre on the contested Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023. — REUTERS

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

A PENDING Philippine bill that seeks to set up maritime zones would help address insecurities in the region, according to political analysts.

“Legislation of domestic maritime laws on archipelagic sea lanes and maritime zones are effective legal mechanisms to address maritime insecurities in the region,” Chester B. Cabalza, founding president of Manila-based International Development and Security Cooperation, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The Philippines should also boost security ties with more “militant” Southeast Asian neighbors, said Hansley A. Juliano, who teaches political science at the Ateneo De Manila University.

“Maximizing and learning from Vietnam and Thailand would be a good start since they are the other strong economies in mainland Southeast Asia who are at least not wholly dependent on China,” he said in a Messenger chat.

He cited the need for more funds to modernize naval and air services, as well as “integrate a civil society that is on a more advanced appreciation of international relations beyond the ‘pro-US vs. pro-China’ framing.”

The Philippines has been unable to enforce a 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed tribunal that voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1940s map.

Mr. Juliano said this would show that the Philippines is “actually serious about multilateralism instead of being a neocolonial dependent of another foreign power.”

On Saturday, delegates at the 31st Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Manila adopted a resolution that seeks to promote regional peace, while recognizing that “freedom of the high seas is a fundamental principle of maritime order and is essential for the peace and prosperity of the international community.”

The resolution also called on governments to enhance “confidence-building measures to effectively alleviate tensions, proactively prevent disputes, and mitigate the escalation of ongoing disputes between or among states in the Asia-Pacific Region.”

It also urged adherence to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and ensure the enforcement of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Under the 1982 UNCLOS, a country has rights to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) offshore from its land coast.

The delegates also supported the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Safety of Life at Sea Convention, Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea and rules and regulations issued by the International Maritime Organization.

Member-countries also adopted resolutions on combatting transnational crimes, critical infrastructure, universal healthcare and climate action.

“The APPF Member Parliaments emphasized the importance of bilateral and multilateral collaboration as well as parliamentary diplomacy to promote stronger institutions, resolve regional conflict and overcome contemporary challenges,” the delegates said in a joint communiqué.

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri on Saturday said the Philippines had lobbied for a seat at the UN Security Council for 2027-2028.

“We secured firm and new commitments from the countries we have approached,” he told a news briefing.

“It would be a big deal for us to secure a seat at the UN Security Council especially that we face a lot of issues in the West Philippine Sea,” Mr. Zubiri said in Filipino, referring to areas of the South China within the Philippines’ EEZ.


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