By Bernadette D. Nicolas, June 24 2019; Business Mirror

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THE Philippines and Indonesia cheered at the weekend the completion of domestic requirements for the entry into force of a landmark agreement on the delimitation of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) boundary between two countries.

Malacañang said on Sunday this was considered to be the highlight of the bilateral meeting between President Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Duterte and Widodo met on Saturday night on the sidelines of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Bangkok.

“Both leaders see this development as a clear demonstration of the strong and tight bond between the Philippines and Indonesia, which incidentally are celebrating their 70th anniversary of formal diplomatic and bilateral relations,” said Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo in a statement.

Moreover, Panelo said the Palace considers the legal instrument to be a “good precedent” on how to address maritime concerns and settle disputes in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), noting the archipelagic nature of the Philippines which inherently shares common borders with many Asean member-states such as Indonesia.

“In line with the independent foreign policy course that PRRD charted for our country—where we are friends to all and enemies to none —we hope that this accord would serve as a benchmark for future agreements with other countries with shared or similar concerns as we continue to deepen cooperation with our strategic allies in the region,” Panelo added.

After two decades of negotiations, the Philippines and Indonesia signed the agreement on EEZ boundary in 2014 during the state visit of former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In a bid to delimit the overlapping EEZs of two countries, the agreement included the annexed charts showing the EEZ boundary of two counties in the Mindanao Sea and the Celebes Sea in the southern Philippines and in the Philippine Sea on the southern section of Pacific Ocean.

The agreement was also considered a milestone for Philippines-Indonesia relations as it opens new opportunities for closer cooperation in the preservation and protection of the rich marine environment in the area as well as increased maritime and trade security.

The EEZ boundary line also gave the fishermen and other stakeholders a clear extent of the area where they can exercise sovereign rights over the waters as provided by the laws and treaties, including Unclos.