Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spratly: Not For Cowards

Handling Spratly is not a job for cowards. Nor a work for corrupt officials and neither a chance to be given to a traitor. It is a function of courageous and patriotic people willing to drain their blood in defence of its sovereignty. But the way our government officials are exhibiting their weaknesses, we cannot rely that a beneficial solution can be obtained by them.


We should not be lured by the immediate effect of financial benefits being offered by the less qualified claimant. If the eight billion dollars offered by China as loan assistance are tied with some concession on Spratly, then it is tantamount that our government officials are being bribed. $8 billion is chicken feed compared to trillions of dollars that can be derived from Spratly. (Pls. see my previous post, “Spratly: This Land Is Mine.”)


The archipelagic baseline law is a fundamental requirement. Without it, we will lose the Kalayaan Island and Scarborough Shoal. Under the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), Art. 3, Sec. 2, Limits of the Territorial Sea: “Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention.”


With the stated limit, we will be losing virtually these islands. However, since the Philippines is an archipelagic state, it has an option under UNCLOS to submit an established baselines. Baseline limits include the continental shelf area beyond the 200 nautical miles allowed under the convention. Under Art. 76, Part VI of the said convention, continental shelf is clearly defined as follows: “ The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.” It further specified under paragraph 5 and 6, that:


“ 5. The fixed points comprising the line of the outer limits of the continental shelf on the seabed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4 (a)(i) and (ii), either shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metre isobath, which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres.


6. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 5, on submarine ridges, the outer limit of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. This paragraph does not apply to submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateaux, rises, caps, banks and spurs.”

With all the foregoings, we need only to submit to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for confirmation and which “shall make recommendations to States on the shelf's outer boundaries when it extends beyond 200 miles.”


Spratly groups of islands is within the 200-mile limit of our territorial sea. We have an existing community under the province of Palawan. Others were able to intrude and claimed as theirs in view of our inability to guard our shore. But this should not justify letting hegemony as a means of expanding a neighboring state...or this is a matter of big guys elbowing a smaller guy. No State in its right mind should entertain claiming the island outside their apportioned territory. Countries like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other Spratly claimants insist of claiming the island which is too far away from their domain. Vietnam, our nearest neighbour is 500 miles away from Spratly while China, who wants to dominate all islands within China Sea, is twice as far.


We have to assert our rights and be resolute on our freedom of abode. We should not let intruders in our backyards. And if there is a conflict, there is always the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea established under the Convention which settles the disputes.


But the actuations of our officials are exactly the opposite. They invited the antagonists to till our backyard and serve the portion in consideration of a bountiful pockets. I thought Judas already perished on the rope. But why did he left so many tribes flourishing in this land? They are scattered in the government organizations and with portfolios!


The Secretary of Justice, in parrying the thrust of accusations hurled against them in giving away Spratly by shelving the baseline bill, raised the scenario of war with alarming catastrophic effect –this a common tactics of sowing fears to win an arguments. But his tail is not wagging, hidden under his belly instead. Senator Asshole is of no difference. Fearing international repercussions, threw the towel inside the ring ...without even a fight... and warding off with a treatise of non-existing provisions on the laws of the sea.


A bunch of cowards are guarding the sovereignty of our territory. Why was Malaysia did not fear in incorporating our Sabah? Why was Formosa did not fear in separating from China? Why was China did not fear in enacting a law claiming the whole China Sea and all the islands within it? All these States did not go to war to acquire their domain on the land and sea they possessed. All can be done in the negotiating table.


We have to assert our right and declare our strongest position through the baseline bill. The world today do not thrive through barbaric or primitive ways. Great men and women recognize reasons in the face of all adversaries.

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