PHL and Indonesia sign deal setting maritime boundaries

MANILA, Philippines — After 20 years of negotiations, the Philippines and Indonesia formally signed on Friday, May 23,  an agreement setting their maritime boundaries in the Mindanao and Celebes seas.

The agreement , which  draws a boundary between the two countries’ overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs), is considered as the Philippines’ first maritime boundary treaty.

“This is a milestone agreement that… serves as solid proof to our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns,” Philippine President Benigno Aquino said during a joint news conference with his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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

“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.

The agreement will set new maritime boundary lines in the Mindanao and Celebes seas.  It will help the Philippines and Indonesia in delineating boundaries over  rich fishing grounds, key trading routes and areas which are potential sources of oil or natural gas.

“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,” the DFA explained in a primer.

The overlap occurs in both countries’ exclusive economic zones or EEZ.   The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines an EEZ as extending from a country’s coast up to 200 nautical miles in which it has special rights over the exploitation and use of marine resources, including energy resources.

Sulawesi is the closest Indonesian island to the Philippines.  (Eagle News Service)