Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spratly: Being Handed on a Silver Platter

We are entrusting the sovereignty of our territories to a bunch cowards. They are giving off the Kalayaan Islands and the Scarborough Shoals with the deferment of the bill defining the archipelagic baseline of the Philippine Archipelago. The bill is doomed to oblivion as it is being shelved and guarded by Malacanang.


Defining the archipelagic boundaries of the Philippines is a requirement of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). Without it, the claim of the Philippines on the Spratly Group of Island would rendered inutile. Under UNCLOS the archipelagic nations such as the Philippines should have a definitive law which outlined its baselines by May 2009. And the way Philippine officials are conducting themselves dragging the baseline law in the sidelines of “kangkongan” so many years overdue, it won’t be far that we will be left again eating the dust in the “pancitan.”


Representative Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, authored the baseline bill. It was on the final reading in the lower house when the Department of Foreign Affairs lobbied to stop it for reason that it has international complications. The house scheduled again the said bill for final approval but Palace officials intervened saying that it should be returned to the originating committee for further deliberations.“This is a very sensitive issue of national interest and international concern which we must face to preserve the integrity of our national sovereignty,” Speaker of the Lower House Prospero C. Nograles said. It is understood that Nograles was just following the order of Malacanang. There is also an insinuations that the Spratly Islands in the baseline bill should only be called a “regime of islands.” But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., said: “Efforts of MalacaƱang to dilute the bill delineating the country’s archipelagic baseline by introducing a provision to call the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoals as parts of a “regime of islands” is an act of treason.” Pimentel is supporting the original Cuenco bill even “worst come to worst.”


A certain senator, however, said that there is no rush approving the bill, UNCLOS can wait. “The bill included contested island and there are complications. The boundaries of the Philippines will be reduced to smaller size if we insist that it is an archipelagic state. The Treaty of Paris specified a much wider size.”


We cannot escape being an archipelagic state. We have been a Philippine Archipelago ever since and it is an accepted facts whether we like it or not. Under the UNCLOS, Archipelagic State is defined as: “A State constituted wholly by one or more archipelagos and may include other islands. Archipelago means a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters, and other natural features....” We will not demean our size as Spratly Islands are part of the Philippine continental shelf. The Treaty of Paris mentioned is only an agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America which was signed on Sept. 3, 1783, encompassing its colonies together with France, Spain, and the Netherlands. In Article 2 of the said treaty, the United States specifically stated the names of its colonies and defining its boundaries, the Philippines was not included. Its signatories are David Hartley representing Great Britain and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay for the United States. It concerned only the countries bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and we are situated between the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea.


The Philippine government should be obliged to pass the baseline law without any reservations. If there are other claimants that would be affected, there is always the United Nations where they can lodge their protest and whatever the decision , it should be binding and should be followed peacefully. We do not want to lose another Sabah through the misdeeds of our forebears.


But the way we are exhibiting ourselves in treating the issue, it is not surprising that we may be meant to be as offering the Spratly to other claimants on a silver platter.

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