Roque to sponsor law reclaiming PH territorial waters

<p>Senatorial candidate Harry Roque <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Senatorial candidate Harry Roque (File photo)

MANILA – UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque has vowed to amend the 2009 Philippine Baselines Law which caused the country to lose much of its territorial waters and weaken its legal claim to the Kalayaan or Spratly Group of Islands.

If elected to the Senate, Roque would rectify the legal infirmities in Republic Act (RA) 9522. The law amended provisions of RA 3046 to define the country's new archipelagic baseline.

In 2009, Roque filed a petition on behalf of law dean Merlin Magallona before the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the constitutionality of the Philippine Baselines Law. The high court dismissed the Magallona et al. vs. Executive Secretary case.

Roque questioned the new archipelagic baseline because it took out a large portion of the Philippine territory.

He also argued that it contradicted the Treaty of Paris of 1898, which demarcated the country's territory before any existing international treaty.

"The Paris Treaty and the world recognized Philippine colonial boundaries before the turn of the 20th century," Roque said in a news release on Monday. "This is consonant with the customary international law principle that says colonial boundaries are conclusive."

The international lawyer added that even the International Court of Justice acknowledges this customary principle.

Roque said the 1898 Treaty is the strongest basis for the Philippine claim to the Kalayaan Islands. It has extended the country's territorial waters to hundreds of nautical miles around the archipelago.

However, the 2009 baselines law undermined the colonial boundaries set in the Paris Treaty. According to Roque, this has weakened the country's historic claims to the Spratlys.

"I keep saying that the Philippines is the only archipelagic country. All islands and waters within the archipelagic baselines are ours. The baselines law should use an archipelagic baseline to include the Spratlys in the Philippine territory,” Roque said.

He added, "As enshrined in our Constitution, we have 'territorial waters' and 'internal waters' that assert our exercise of absolute sovereignty and jurisdiction. Instead, the 2009 law unconstitutionally converts them with 'archipelagic waters' which dilutes our sovereignty and jurisdiction."

Roque blamed retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who penned the Supreme Court decision to dismiss the Magallona petition.

"In effect, he was practically saying that since we have abundant archipelagic waters, it is fine to lose internal and territorial waters. In my opinion, we cannot claim rights over archipelagic waters," Roque said.

Under RA 9522, the country's territorial sea baseline was determined by the “Regime of Islands,” consistent with Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Roque, however, said the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) declared the “Regime of Islands” as non-compliant to UNCLOS.

Adopted in 1982, the UNCLOS is an international treaty that provides the legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.

On the other hand, the ITLOS is an independent judicial body that settles disputes relative to the Convention. (PR)