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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. Compromise on Baselines Bill Bared
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Friday, 20 June 2008 05:50

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said he has accepted the proposal to create a congressional commission to undertake an in-depth study on the country’s archipelagic baselines after its proponent, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, came up with a compromise to shorten the period of time within which the commission will pursue its task and present its report to Congress.

 

Senator Pimentel said the proposed Congressional Commission on National Territory should fast track its work to ensure that Congress will be able to pass the bill delineating the archipelagic baselines before the May 13, 2009, deadline prescribed by the United Nations.

Originally, Senator Santiago, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, wanted the Commission to be given up to Dec. 31, 2008, to submit its “partial” report to Congress.

The Commission will be composed of five members of the Senate and five members of the House of Representatives and will be assisted by experts in international law and relevant fields.On the other hand, Mr. Pimentel and other authors of various bills delineating the archipelagic baselines wanted the measures to be deliberated by the lawmakers while the Commission is conducting its studies.

“I told Miriam, let us look for a compromise and she herself proposed to shorten the work of the Commission,” Senator Pimentel told the weekly Kapihan sa Maynila Press Forum at the Manila Hotel.

The minority leader said if the Commission can complete its work and submit its report within one month from the time of its creation, instead of five or six months, then Congress will have sufficient time for the debates and approval of the baselines bill.

“Malacañang treats Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands in the international map) and Scarborough Shoal as mere ‘regime of islands’,” Senator Pimentel says.

Senator Pimentel said that the bills that he and other senators have filed seek to place the disputed Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal within the archipelagic baselines, which means that they are part and parcel of Philippine territory by virtue of historic right and legal title.

This is in contrast to the position taken by Malacañang which treats Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands in the international map) and Scarborough Shoal as mere “regime of islands,” which Senator Pimentel said seems to be “neither here nor there” and, therefore, tends to weaken the country’s claim of ownership and sovereignty over these territories.

“By asserting our claim to Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal, we are not going to war against China because that is a foolish thing to do to begin with," Senator Pimentel said.

He said the archipelagic baselines will be drawn up in accordance with the United Nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) which entitles the Philippines to the following: (1) territorial sea of 12 nautical miles, (2) contiguous zone of additional 12 nautical miles, (3) exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, (4) and extended continental shelf of up to 350 nautical miles.

Mr. Pimentel said “if we overextend our boundaries, there are procedures in international law sanctioned by the UN that can settle the matter without the use of force.

“If we are wrong, let the UN authorities involved in the implementation of UNCLOS tells us where we are wrong. And if we are wrong, we can adjust our claim accordingly,” he said.

Senator Pimentel also clarified that Sabah is not included under the proposed archipelagic baselines bill “for the moment because there are so many legal matters to be threshed out.” # # #



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Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2008 05:54
 

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