“Can Congress change the name of the West Philippine Sea to Greater West Philippine Sea?”
Senator Francis Tolentino raised this question on Thursday, September 14 as he broached the idea of renaming the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in a bid to strengthen the country’s sovereign rights over it.
But while renaming it to “Greater West Philippine Sea” sounds good, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said the term may not be recognized by the international community.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega pointed out the West Philippine Sea, for one, does not appear in foreign maps.
“We are not going to say that it can’t be done, sir. Except internationally, the term might not be recognized,” De Vega told the Special Committee on Philippine Maritime and Admiralty Zones first hearing on the various bills seeking the establishment of maritime zones.
“But internally, we can say it’s the ‘Greater West Philippine Sea.’ It sounds good,” De Vega said.
De Vega also said he believes it is permissible to call it as such, but as long as the title doesn’t say that the sea is part of Philippine territory as this could be a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
The DFA official, likewise, also believe that other countries would not take offense on changing the name of the WPS based on Tolentino’s suggestion, but “one country” would definitely be offended by such move.
“We know one large country which would be offended by the term, but I like the term,” he said.
It could be recalled that in 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III issued Administrative Order No. 29 renaming the maritime areas on the western side of the country’s archipelago as the West Philippine Sea.
Included in the WPS administrative order are the Luzon Sea, the waters around it, within and adjacent to Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal).
“Idadagdag na natin yung Benham Rise, Philippine Rise doon sa kabila. Isahan na lang iyon, one time big time,” Sen. Tol said.
The special Senate panel, headed by Tolentino, is now tackling the various bills that seek to establish the Maritime Zones Act to establish the extent of the country’s jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and continental shelf.
The proposed bills seek to also include the Benham Rise, which Tolentino want to be renamed as “Talampas ng Pilipinas.”
According to the senator, the Senate aims to pass into law the maritime zones bill alongside another measure that seeks to establish the Philippine Archipelagic Sea Lanes Act.
“The committee hearing comes in the wake of tensions in the West Philippine Sea and heightened concerns of increasing prices of food and the recent announcements of the rise in electricity prices,” Tolentino said.
“It is timely then that the Senate of the Philippines provide the necessary support for our fellow workers in the government and the executive branch in order to better secure the benefits of the vast Philippine maritime zones, including our territorial sea …and the large, exclusive economic zone,” he stressed.
“Hindi po malayo sa sikmura ang kawalang ng maritime zones ng Pilipinas. Leaving the Philippines maritime zones largely undefined will slow our ability to responsibly exploit and develop our resources,” the senator also warned. — Hannah Torregoza
Credit belongs to: www.mb.com.ph