Philippines, Indonesia seal historic maritime deal in Mindanao

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HISTORIC DEAL. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (left) and Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (right) finish signing a historic maritime deal between their countries. Behind them, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III witness the signing. Photo by Rey Baniquet/PCOO/Malacañang Photo Bureau

A first for the Philippines, the treaty draws a boundary between overlapping EEZs

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Indonesia signed on Friday, May 23, the historic agreement that draws a boundary between the two countries' overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs), which will help Filipino and Indonesian fishermen in the long run.

It took 20 years to set this boundary between the overlapping EEZs in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.

In a primer, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) explained, "With a clearly demarcated EEZ boundary as guided by the official chart, Filipino fishing vessels and fishermen will be able to operate and undertake livelihood activities in the Philippine EEZ knowing where the Indonesian EEZ begins."

"Coast guard and law enforcement authorities of the Philippines and Indonesia will now know the maximum extent of their respective EEZs thereby implement rules and regulations with clear jurisdictional area," the DFA added.

This is the Philippines' first maritime boundary treaty.

“The agreement is a milestone for Philippine-Indonesia relations as the EEZ boundary will open opportunities for closer cooperation in the preservation and protection of the rich marine environment in the area, increased trade, and enhanced maritime security,” the DFA explained.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, inked the deal in Manila with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as witnesses.

Yudhoyono is in Manila for a two-day state visit timed with the Philippine hosting of the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA). He was due to receive the prestigious Global Statesmanship Award from the WEF on Friday.

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HISTORIC AGREEMENT. The map shows the exclusive economic zone boundary between the Philippines and Indonesia. Photo courtesy of DFA

In its primer, the DFA said Aquino needs to ratify the treaty, then submit it to the Senate "for concurrence in accordance with Section 21, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution."

Proof of 'friendship, goodwill'

“The conclusion of the negotiations attests to the friendship, patience, goodwill, and commitment of the governments of the Philippines and Indonesia to peacefully address maritime issues,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Evan Garcia, who led the Philippine team in negotiations.

The EEZ is an area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines, or edges, within which the state has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others.

The rules for setting the EEZ boundary can be found in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the same convention that the Philippines invokes in its historic case against China over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The case between the Philippines and China is different, however.

The Philippines, for one, insists that its case against China has nothing to do with overlapping EEZs. (READ: What's at stake in our case vs China)

China claims it does. It uses this argument to prove that the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is hearing the Philippines' case against China, has no jurisdiction over it. This is because China rejected arbitral proceedings over the delimitation of maritime boundaries in an UNCLOS declaration in 2006. (READ: China rejects PH case, invokes int'l law)

Garcia however said the agreement “is a significant contribution to, and an example of, reasonable efforts to build a stable and peaceful regional community, in consideration of the interests of countries concerned and in accordance with international law.” – Rappler.com

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