Senate Sits on 2 Bills Asserting PH Territory

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Members of the House of Representatives who swiftly approved two bills that could bolster the country's territorial claim over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) are hoping they are fast-tracked in the Senate. Ako Bicol partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe said the two bills are included in the list of urgent priority measures identified by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). This means that House Bills 4185 and 4153, which were approved and transmitted to the Senate about five months ago, require swift passage in both Houses of Congress, said Batocabe, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Congressmen unanimously approved on third and final reading HBl 4185 on Dec. 6, 2011. Authored by Paranaque City Rep. Roilo Golez, the bill describes the maritime zones of the Philippines as the following: internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. "As such, the passage of this proposed legislative measure has for its aim the provision of the necessary flexibility in the enactment of subsequent laws pertinent to the rights and obligations that the Philippines is entitled to and should exercise over its own maritime zones in accordance with the UNCLOS," Golez said. On the other hand, HB 4153 establishes the archipelagic sealanes in the Philippine archipelagic waters, and prescribes the rights and obligations of foreign ships and aircraft passing through. Authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., HB 4153 is titled "The Philippine Archipelagic Sealanes Act," which prohibits the passage of military aircraft and ships containing nuclear and chemical weapons and substances. Batocabe said the enactment of the two bills further strengthens the Philippines' claim over the disputed territory in the West Philippines Sea. "This is an international requirement and we should meet this to further boost our territorial claim in the contested islands," said Batocabe. However, the neophyte solon admitted that approval of the measures would also further enrage China and contribute to more tension between the Chinese and Philippine governments. Batocabe stated that HB 4185 and HB 4153 are still pending before the Senate foreign relations panel. leaders led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile after Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III delivered a scathing privilege speech decrying the speed with which the DFA had given three conflicting positions on the diplomatic immunity of Erick Schcks Bairnals, the Panamanian, and the fast dismissal by the Makati Regional Trial Court of the rape complaint against Bairnals last April 30. In his privilege speech, Sotto questioned the release of, and the immunity accorded to the Panamian. …