Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda has emphasized the importance of upholding the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea disputes based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) agreement, which was established seven years ago.

She underscored the need for reciprocity and mutual respect to be maintained in this matter.

Earlier this year, in January, Legarda advocated for the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework aligned with the principles of UNCLOS.

She did so by introducing Senate Bill 1649, also known as the Philippine Maritime Zones Act. According to her, this bill would serve as a crucial instrument in implementing the arbitral ruling and integrating the tribunal’s decision into the country’s legislation. The main goal was to create a rules-based system for maritime governance that reflects the essence of UNCLOS.

“Alongside protecting our own, it is equally important to ensure legal stability in maritime zones. We must unequivocally demarcate our maritime boundaries, and we must do this by law,” Legarda stated in her speech during the Forum Commemorating the Anniversary of the Arbitral Tribunal Ruling, noting the role of Congress in translating the zones provided by UNCLOS into specifically defined and bounded areas through domestic legislation.

She also specified that the government should clearly define the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which can help solidify sovereignty and provide a legal basis for the country to control maritime territories and resources effectively.

“We also want to establish, as a basic foundation, the maritime zones within which our blue economy will be managed, nurtured, and made to prosper,” Legarda said.

Filed as SB 1993, the Blue Economy Act, principally authored by Legarda, is among the priority legislations pronounced by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“A strong maritime governance framework will not only protect our sovereignty, unlock economic opportunities, and protect marine ecosystems; it will also enhance climate resilience, promote sustainable fisheries, support maritime research and development, strengthen maritime security institutions, strengthen coastal resilience, and empower coastal communities,” Legarda conveyed.

“A solid governance framework and economic valuation will ensure that our coastal communities can secure tenure over their traditional fishing grounds and enable them to participate in decision-making processes, access financial resources, and benefit from the sustainable use of marine resources,” she added.

Moreover, the four-term senator urged Filipinos to reflect on the UNCLOS arbitral ruling since this validates the Philippines’ claim and allows the government to safeguard the country’s maritime assets and ecosystem.

“We need to make sure this victory is not merely symbolic but one that provides tangible benefits for our people. Let us seize this opportunity to circle the wagons, engage our legal system, our economy, and our citizenry to prevent further damage and incursions and usher in legal stability,” Legarda concluded.

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