July 18, 2008
KALAYAAN ISLANDS PART OF RP TERRITORY UNDER PROPOSED FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
The Kalayaan Islands, part of the Spratly Islands whose ownership is being claimed by several countries, are considered part of the national territory under a set of amendments to the 1987 Constitution being proposed by majority of the senators, the centerpiece of which is the adoption of a federal system of government.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Joint Resolution 10 that he and 15 other senators have filed includes a new paragraph in the Article on the National Territory that clearly asserts that the Kalayaan Islands and the Scarborough Shoal belong to the Philippines.
However, Pimentel said the new paragraph does not specifically mention Kalayaan Islands, Scarborough Shoal or even Sabah, which was annexed by Malaysia despite ownership claim by the Sultanate of Sulu.
The new paragraph in the Article on National Territory reads: "The national territory shall likewise include all islands occupied or claimed by the Republic out of historic title, by discovery or other means recognized under international law and its exclusive economic zone as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
Pimentel stressed the importance of asserting and pursuing the Philippine claim of sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island, Scarborough Shoal and other islets, reefs or shoals that are not clearly delineated to be within the boundaries even of existing maps of the Republic.
"Moreover, we have not yet drawn up the metes and bounds of our exclusive economic zone as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," the minority leader pointed out.
"One way of formally starting the laying of our claim over those islands, islets, reefs or shoals is to define the national territory in the manner stated in the proposed revision of Article 1 on the National Territory."
The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, believed to have vast deposits of oil, gas and other precious minerals, are being claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei. On the other hand, the Scarborough Shoal, which is near the Luzon island, is being claimed by the Philippines and China.
Pimentel has filed a bill which seeks to delineate the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines which places the Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal within the baselines, meaning they are part and parcel of the national territory. This is in contrast to the stand of Malacañang that Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal should be treated merely as a "regime of islands" to which the Philippines has a standing territorial claim.
The senator from Mindanao said to treat Kalayaan Islands, which comprise a municipality of Palawan province, and Scarborough Shoal, as just a regime of islands is tantamount to a sellout or weakening of the Philippine claim to these territories.
"It should be made abundantly clear that by making our claims to the Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal, we are not going to war against China or any other country that have made similar claims on these islands and shoals," Pimentel said.
"What we are trying to do is to stake our claim more formally by stating them in the fundamental law."
Pimentel said that "if we are in error, then the United Nations body that has jurisdiction over the matter should arbitrate the claims that clash with ours and to tell us to adjust our claim accordingly."
He said Congress should enact the law on the archipelagic baselines before the May 2009 deadline set by the United Nations so that the country's claim to an expanded maritime territory would not be jeopardized or worse, forfeited.