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IBP Board calls on gov’t agencies to act on PH arbitral award on West Philippine Sea

Board members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) have called on Philippine government agencies to uphold the country’s arbitral award on the West Philippine Sea, to clarify that the Chinese cannot fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone, and that China’s physical possession of the zone is unlawful.

“The Board of Governors of the (IBP) hereby calls on all instrumentalities of the Philippine State, including the Executive Department, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Congress, the Judiciary, the constitutional commissions, and the local government units, to uphold the rule of law and the Philippine national interest,” regarding the country’s arbitral award on the West Philippine Sea.

The IBP statement, signed by its 10 board members, dated May 24 and made public on Friday, explained that under Presidential Decree No. 1599 (1) established in 1978, the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone extends “200 nautical miles from the Philippine baselines” where the Philippines has the “exclusive sovereign right to exploit the natural resources, establish artificial islands, preserve the marine environment, and conduct scientific research.”

Moreover, it was explained in the statement that Congress enacted the Fisheries Code in 1998 “to limit access to the fishery and aquatic resources of the Philippines for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens” which is to be enforced in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Philippine Constitution also mandates the Philippine State’s legal obligation to “protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and [to] reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,” it added. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago