DENNIS JAMITO

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Philippine Baselines Law, Constitutional – SC

THE  Supreme Court (SC) en banc declared as constitutional the controversial Baselines Law signed by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo in 2009.
This was after the high court junked the petition for lack of merit the petition filed by a group led by international law experts headed by former University of the Philippines Dean Merlin Magallona which seeks to stop implementation of R.A. 9522 and declare it as unconstitutional.

According to a Manila Times source, a unanimous voting was made by the SC en banc on Tuesday.

In the decision written by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, it affirmed the position of the Arroyo government that it did not violate or revise the definition of the Philippine archipelago under the 1987 constitution. The said ruling is still circulating for the signatures of the justices as of presstime.
In the said ruling, it did not give credence to the contention of Magallona and Atty. Harry Roque that the said statute radically revised the definition of the Philippine archipelago by resulting in the loss of at least 15,000 square nautical miles of the country’s territorial
waters.

Instead, the 15-man tribunal gave a nod with the contention of the Office of Solicitor General that Philippine archipelago as defined in the constitution remains the same under the new Baselines Law.

It was pointed out that the establishment of baselines is not a mode of acquiring, asserting or revising territory over which a state
exercises sovereignty but only for the purpose of defining or establishing from what points the breadth of maritime areas over which
a state has sovereign or jurisdictional rights are measured.

In addition, it was argued that that R.A. 9522 could no longer be enjoined through an injunction order because the said law was immediately forwarded to the United Nations through the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea
(DOALOS).

The Magallona and Roque petition had asked the SC to declare R.A. 9522 a violation of article I, sections 7 and 8 of article II, section 16 of article II, section 2 of article XII and section 7 of article XIII of the constitution.

The petition states that R.A. 9522, which was an amendment of R.A. 3046 (the old Baselines Law), practically redefined the Philippine territory as having a roughly triangular shape, excluding much of the waters that were previously within the territory defined by the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which described the territory as rectangular about 600 miles wide and 1,200 miles long.

The international law professors argued that it also converted the country’s internal waters into “archipelagic waters” through standards under the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that uses the straight baselines method in delineating the national territory.

Under the existing law, UNCLOS mandates that states can exercise the rights of innocent passage and archipelagic sealanes passage over archipelagic waters. An example of this would be alien ships including nuclear-powered ships and other ships carrying weapons-grade nuclear substances and even aircrafts of all kinds can pass through and over archipelagic waters in a continuous, expeditious, and unobstructed manner.

As to the Kalayaan group of islands claim including the Spratlys, they stressed it would weaken the Philippines claim over these islands.

However, this does not hold water and Magallona and Roque lost before the SC.

August 16, 2011 - Posted by | Justice Issue, National

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