By Raymund Antonio
A law designating sea lanes in Philippine waters is needed, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday, referring to the Archipelagic Sea Lanes Passage Bill that has long been pending in Congress.
Robredo supported Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s call to President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent the measure that would designate sea lanes where foreign ships could pass through in the country’s waters.
“Kapag may sealanes na iyon, hindi na kailangan mag-clearance every time, may ruta. Sana macertify na urgent para naiiwasan ‘yung ganito,” she said on her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni.”
(If it has sea lanes, the foreign ships don’t need to get clearance every time, they have route. I hope the measure would be certified as urgent to prevent such incident.)
Duterte put on notice all foreign vessels should secure clearance from the government before their actual passage in Philippine waters amid the recent sightings of Chinese warships within the country’s 12-mile territorial sea.
Instead of this, Carpio, however, underscored the need for Congress to pass such law that can require the foreign ships to “turn on their Automatic Identification System (AIS) and for submarines to surface and show their flag.”
The House Bill 5487 is an Act that provides for the establishment of the Archipelagic Sea Lanes in the Philippine waters, prescribing the rights and obligations of foreign ships exercising the right to archipelagic sea lane passage.
In the Senate, the Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act was filed by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the 17th Congress.
The Vice President is looking forward to Duterte’s upcoming official trip to China, his fifth visit to the country as president upon the invitation of his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping.
Robredo said she was elated by Duterte’s intention to raise the international arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
“Mula 2016, ito na iyong hiniling natin na sana sa one-on-one [meeting] with China, Asean o kung saan man na pagtitipon gamitin na desisyon ng arbitral tribunal para ayusin ‘yung claims natin,” she said.
(Since 2016, this has been our request that we hope during the one-on-one meeting with China, Asean or any gathering, we will use the decision of the arbitral tribunal to assert our claims.)
Robredo was also pleased Duterte would watch the 2019 FIBA World Cup game between the Philippine national team and Italy during his visit to China.
“Buti naman makaattend siya. Siguro kapag personally present makaboost ‘yun ng confidence ng ating mga players (It is good he will be able to attend. Maybe if he is personally present, that would boost the confidence of our players),” she said.