Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed into law a bill that redefines the Philippines' archipelagic baselines, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said on Wednesday.
The newly signed law known as Republic Act 9522, which establishes the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, was crafted to prevent the Philippines from losing by default its claim to extended continental shelf areas teeming with fishery, mineral and natural gas resources.
"We are telling the world that we are asserting our sovereignty. We are affirming our national interest as an independent country," Ermita told a press conference.
The Philippines had a previous baseline marking, but it was considered invalid because it did not conform to the UN-mandated baseline measurement.
Although the Philippine-claimed Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal are now outside the country's archipelagic baselines, the law stipulates the disputed islands and shoal will remain "under the sovereignty or territorial claim" of the Philippines.
The new law stressed the contested islands, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, will be treated as part of a "regime of islands" in the South China Sea.