A LAWMAKER on Tuesday asked the House of Representatives to swiftly approve a bill that seeks to provide legislative basis to the Philippines’ maritime territory.

“The projected talks between the Philippines and our neighbor Indonesia should prompt Congress to now approve a maritime zones bill,” Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said in a statement.

House Bill 2467, or the Philippines Maritimes Zone Act, seeks to declare and define the maritime zones under the jurisdiction of the Philippines.

The proposed measure states that the Philippines, as a signatory of the 1983 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, “recognizes the establishment of various maritime zones and jurisdiction of coastal states, including its own, over which sovereignty and appurtenant sovereign rights can be exercised.”

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to territorial claims involving the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and China.

China has ignored a 2016 United Nations arbitral ruling that voided its claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea. It has also transformed some disputed islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone into military installations.

Mr. Rodriguez said Congress should “not be afraid of how China would react to the enactment of such a law.”

He said the bill would be the country’s way to protect fishermen in disputed areas, among other courses of action.

During the previous Congress, Mr. Rodriguez filed a similar bill that was passed on third reading by the House but the Senate version was not approved.

Counterpart bills have been filed in the current Congress by Senators Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo