HB 323 – An Act Amending RA 8550 (On Municipal Waters, Explanatory Note)


House Bill No. 323



Introduced by Representative Lorenzo R. Tañada III


The definition of municipal waters under Section 4(58) is deficient in that it provides clear rules for only two types of coastlines: the straight coastline, and directly opposing coastlines. It does not provide for the nearly limitless possible configurations and shapes of coastlines of the 7,107 islands and surrounding waters of the Philippine Archipelago.

The Philippine coastline is highly irregular. Curves and indentions are the rule rather than the exception, and islands and islets dot the periphery of many provinces and municipalities. In some cases, municipalities are even made up of two or more islands. The perpendicular lines provided for by the Fisheries Code will be inapplicable to curving coastlines, while parallel lines mimicking the shape of the actual coastlines will be impossible to enforce at sea. The stated purpose of reserving municipal waters for the greater majority of marginal fishers will thus be rendered useless and futile.

The guiding principle for resolving the issue of disparity is to adopt the use of archipelagic principle, which is enshrined in article 1 of the 1987 Constitution and has been one of the fundamental pillars of the Philippine concept of national territory. Since the 1950s, the state has pushed this principle, which eventually led to the so-called “Archipelagic Doctrine” in international law and has become the legal and political basis for considering our 7,107 islands as one political unit. This doctrine is one of our most important contributions to the international legal system; without it, international waters will separate the widely scattered islands of our archipelago, and the Filipino nation will be deprived of the large tracts of marine resources between the islands that it has claimed since its inception.

The country’s foreign policy and legal positions before the international community cannot be inconsistent with our national law and policy. If we were not to apply the archipelagic principle to the component units of our country, the Local Government Units, then we would undermine the most fundamental pillar of our concept of national territory. Therefore, allow foreign countries to treat our outlying islands as insignificant pocket of land less important than the largest islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and the waters in between as thoroughfares open to everyone.

The primary purpose of municipal waters is to reserve our coastal waters and resources for the use of millions of our marginalized countrymen who live in the coastal communities. Our coastal communities number in the thousands and include millions of poor and marginalized people directly depend on the fishery resources within our municipal waters for their subsistence. It is in their interest that these municipal waters are clearly delineated. Enabling the law on municipal waters empowers them to take a direct and active role in the management and use of these waters, and assures that the benefits of all municipal fisheries and aquatic resources will go directly to those who most need them.

This bill seeks to amend Section 4 paragraph 58 and provide addendum on chapter 2, article 1 of R.A. 8550 to rectify the inappropriateness of the current definition by adopting the archipelagic principle in the definition of municipal waters and providing additional section on Municipal Fisheries of the same code.

In view of the foregoing, early passage of this bill is earnestly requested.


Fourth District, Quezon


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