Thursday, August 28, 2008

Spratly: Time is Running Out

With the problem of MILF secessionist taking the headlines, the issue of Spratly and the Baseline Bill are now gathering dust in the shelves of congress. Time is running out. House Bill 3216 otherwise known as “An Act Defining the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippine Archipelago, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act 3046, as Amended by Republic Act 5446” should now be passed or discussed in congress.


The United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires every archipelagic nations to establish its archipelagic baseline by May 2009 or else the exclusive economic zone shall become an international waters or be owned by the neighboring countries claiming such territorial boundaries. Spratly group of islands are being claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan; 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.” It has been almost ten years now since UNCLOS gave the time limit on May 13, 1999, and we have only eight months left to fast-track the Baseline Law or we will be knocking our heads on the wall in disgrace.


The Baseline Bill was on the third and final reading in the lower house of Congress when the Department of Foreign Affairs lobbied to stop it for reason that it has international complications. The house scheduled the said bill for final approval sometime in April, this year, but Palace officials intervened saying that it should be returned to the originating committee for further deliberations. MalacaƱang asked the House leadership to reconsider its version of the baselines bill, which, it said would provoke the country into war with fellow Spratlys-claimant and military giant, China. 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, they 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 making 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 claimed. 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 does not thrive through barbaric or primitive ways. Great men and women recognize reasons in the face of all adversaries.


China has been feeding the Spratly-claimants with soft and long-term loans and providing other Asian leaders of voluminous project assistance funding or behind-the-scene-negotiation to stop further making moves in claiming the disputed islands. This is a one-way of under the table diplomacy to avoid war. And why should we be afraid in asserting our right in our front door island space right on the side of an ocean highway? I suspect that there are personal benefits promised to this administration and this is the reason why they are making it difficult to pass the Baseline Bill.


The executive department and its minions are dead in trying to block the bill citing a varied legal treatise –rendered obsolete by the phrase “ all laws or agreements inconsistent with this new law are hereby cancelled or amended” and weakened its impregnability- without definitive bearing on our baseline territory just to appease China whose planned hegemony of all the islands encompassing the China Sea is in the offing. The Treaty of Paris is always being cited as the basis of our claim but this treaty signed on September 3, 1783, in Paris, is only an agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America. It involves the colonies bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The Philippines is situated between the Pacific Ocean and the China Sea and was not even mentioned. Maybe the treaty being referred to is the Treaty of Peace, signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, between the United State and Spain ceding the Philippines for a mere $20 million and specifying its boundaries. But these treaties have been centuries old and it appearing that these have no bearing and being defied by our neighbouring States. We have to be attuned to changing times and there is an international body administering the present problems of conflicting States as the UNCLOS, in which all nations are signatories.


We have to act now. There are many tricks being employed by interested party States to distract our attention in strengthening our claimed Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratly) which we have Pinoy-brothers-and-sisters-inhabitants to protect. The MILF conflict in Mindanao is one problem our adversaries have created as diversionary tactics to further delay our compliance with the nearing deadline of UNCLOS requirements. We have to be on guard, upright, and clever enough to defend our territories up to the extent of exhausting our last moment of breath or shielding it with our blood.


We have lost Las Palmas (Miangas) and North Borneo (Sabah) and Mindanao is being agitated. All these were lost through the fault of conflicting interests of our leaders. Spratly is next in line, are we a bunch of what have said as a people of damaged culture or just simply cowards?

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