Thursday, April 12, 2018

Feature: Protecting the maritime zone rights and boundaries

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 12): Feature: Protecting the maritime zone rights and boundaries

Protecting maritime zone has always been a priority concern for archipelagic state such as the Philippines.

Maritime zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) took centre stage during the discussion in a seminar dubbed “The Law of the Sea: Protection and Conservation of the Philippine Marine Biodiversity” held at the Bolinao Maritime Laboratory (BML) in this western town of Pangasinan.

Set in the official marine station of the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines (UP) in the scenic and breathtaking waters of Bolinao, the discussion aimed to impart basic knowledge on marine and maritime protection to the local government units, academe and other stakeholders.

Lawyer Neil Simon Silva, of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said coastal states want to have control over their waters around its land. However, paradigm powers or the countries that have merchant vessels have the freedom to navigate.

Silva said the Law of the Sea divides the ocean into six different zones: Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and the High Seas and Deep Ocean Floor.

“Internal waters and archipelagic waters, and territorial sea are subject to full sovereignty in all its living and non-living resources hence the merchant vessels and government ships operated for non-commercial purposes can pass through it because of the innocent passage applied under international rules of a coastal state,” Silva explained during the seminar attended by Pangasinan stakeholders.

He said Contiguous Zone is implemented to prevent infringement of the coast state of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territorial sea while the Exclusive Economic Zone which includes living and non-living resources are under sovereign rights of the coastal state to explore, exploit, control and manage.

On the other hand, continental shelf has sovereign rights over seabed and subsoil, the slope and the rise and to the natural resources such as the living organisms belong to the sedentary species, minerals and other non-living resources.

“The difference between sovereignty and sovereign rights is that sovereignty is doing anything by the coastal state like enforcement and making laws within the areas while the sovereign rights has limited rights concentrated on natural resources to artificial installation,” Silva explained.

Silva also identified the government agencies which have jurisdiction to its seas: the Philippine Navy enforces laws and regulations on navigations safety, immigration, custom, narcotics in territorial waters; the Philippine Coast Guard for safety of navigation, environment and natural resources and its assets in fisheries, immigration, transnational and other applicable laws on maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) which has jurisdiction in all fisheries violation under Republic Act 8550 in the Fisheries Code and; the Philippine National Police which possess all police functions over the Philippines’ sea and rivers.

The maritime zone of the Philippines is a big factor in the continuous development and growth of the country. Thus the rights of coastal countries to regulate and exploit areas of the ocean under their jurisdiction are one of the foundations of the Law of the Sea.

These rights, however, need to be balanced with the freedom of navigation and access to resources outside State control- the freedom of the seas.

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