A new Philippine map officially renaming maritime areas in the western part of the archipelago the West Philippine Sea and depicting the extent of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is awaiting the approval of Malacañang.
The map, produced by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) and covering islands in the West Philippine Sea being claimed by China, was “still being reviewed,” according to the Office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr..
The map drawn was drawn up in compliance with Administrative Order No. 29 renaming the maritime areas west of the archipelago, including the Luzon Sea and the waters around, within and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, the West Philippine Sea.
Standoff with China
President Aquino issued the AO in September 2012 amid the escalating standoff with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a group of coral and rock formations in the West Philippine Sea where vessels from both countries faced each other in April 2012.
The international waterway is better known as the South China Sea.
The map was submitted to the Office of the President in the last quarter of 2012, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, who has jurisdiction over Namria, said in a phone interview.
The new map would reinforce the idea that the country has an exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf covered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), said Gilberto Asuque, foreign affairs assistant secretary for ocean concerns.
“Naming waters within our national maritime domain is a sovereign right,” Asuque said also by phone.
China has been claiming sovereignty over the disputed area, which is believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas and is one of the region’s most important fishing grounds. It straddles shipping lanes considered vital to global trade.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have contending claims over parts of the sea.
The AO provides that a copy of the order together with the official map reflecting the West Philippine Sea be deposited with the secretary general of the United Nations, and that relevant international organizations be notified “at the appropriate time.”
Asuque, however, said that the map would have no bearing on the notification and statement of claim that the government recently filed in the UN.
“Our case stands on its own,” he said.