ARTICLE 1. THE NATIONAL TERRITORY. – The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.
I don’t know what else this present government and her ilks has not done yet to destroy the nation – its economy, civil and financial institutions, national territory.
As if accepting bribe from the Chinese on the NBN deal is not enough, this one on Kalayaan Islands is by far the worst act of this government and should be treated as act of treason as against those involved in the deal with China.
All of the people involved in the “sell-out” — like the Arroyos, De Venecias and Razons — should be investigated and held accountable for this treason. Whichever way you look at this JMSU, the Philippines stand to lose plenty, including its right to claim Kalayaan Islands as part of its national territory.
If this issue goes unchallenge and will push through, next time, Arroyo-De Venecia et al, will do the same on the Southern Islets to Malaysia or Indonesia, or worst, we can lose Palawan as well..
I think we cannot wait for 2010 to seek redress from the excesses of the present dispensation, her family and friends who unabashedly seemed to want to top Estrada’s and Marcos’ plunder of the national wealth.
Below are compilations of recent issues about our Kalayaan Islands rights. It is rather a long reading but if you care about our national territory, take time to spend your lunch break or your night surfing to read all of these articles.
At the bottom is the Wikipedia article on how Tomas Cloma boldly laid claim on the islands and declared it the Free Territory of Freedomland. The rest is history. Except that at present, the government wants us to loss this piece of territory for some greedy politicians’ personal gain.
Let us show our concern to the nation. Please feel free to copy and distribute.
RP may lose Kalayaan islands by default
Written by Carmela Fonbuena
Thursday, 06 March 2008
Several congressmen warned Tuesday that if the House of Representatives keeps stalling on the bill defining the country’s territory–to include the disputed Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG)– it may result in the “forfeiture of our claim to the territory.”
To settle the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the UN required all six claimants – Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Brunei – to pass a law defining their respective “archipelagic baselines”.
The deadline is May 2009, a little over one year from now.
House Bill 3216 (the New Baseline Bill), meant to comply with the UN requirement, was passed on second reading last December 13. But the bill has been stalled for three months.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino in Wednesday’s session called on the chamber to schedule its passage. He was seconded by Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez and South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio.
“How can we defend our territory when we are not defining our territory by a law,” Golez said in a House session yesterday. “The legislative (department) is not that fast (in passing bills). We might forfeit our right to claim our territory.”
“My concern is urgent,” said Custodio. “The fishermen in General Santos and Saranggani actually go out of the supposed territorial boundaries. If we do not lay claim to our territorial boundaries, our neighbors will continue to harass our fishermen all over our territorial waters.”
The KIG became a “poblacion” of Palawan in the 1970s.
The House committee on rules will take up on Tuesday Casino’s parliamentary inquiry.
Casino said in a press conference Wednesday that Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua told him that “officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs told Congress not to approve the bill… [because it] conflicts with some international agreements.”
In a committee hearing last November, Golez also recalled that DFA officials interjected that the pending bill “might antagonize China .”
This led to “rumors swirling” that “an external force,” referring to China , is “preventing” the passage of the bill, Golez said. “We are all curioser and curioser,” he said.
Yesterday, Casino and colleague Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo filed House Resolution 496 directing several House committees to investigate the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) entered by President Arroyo in 2004 with China that “reportedly sells out Philippine interests and Philippine sovereignty in exchange for overpriced loans for controversial projects which include the NBN-ZTE Deal, the North Rail and South rail projects, and the Cyber-education projects, among others.”
The JMSU also includes Vietnam.
Golez and Casino insinuated that the loans may be China’s “payment” for “compromising” the country’s territory. “Our territorial integrity is paramount over concessional loans,” said Golez.
The House Resolution cited an article in international magazine Far Eastern Economic Review, which accused President Arroyo of “selling out to China the Philippine and regional interests in South China sea” when Manila entered into the JMSU.
The article said that “through its actions, the Arroyo government has given a certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious ‘historic claim’” to most of the South China Sea .
“This is bordering on treason if an agreement with China will compromise our territory,” Casino said.
Spratlys documents destroyed?
Meanwhile, Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today expressed fears that sensitive documents on a “Spratlys deal” between Manila and Beijing may have already been conveniently misplaced or even destroyed, along with those concerning controversial government projects such as the ZTE-national broadband network deal and the Southrail project.
“Under the Arroyo administration, official documents on controversial government deals have a tendency to vanish into thin air,” he said.
The opposition leader said documents relevant to the Spratlys deal with China, which allegedly allows Beijing to explore Philippine territorial waters, must be secured immediately, to ensure “that they are not stolen, misplaced, or destroyed.
Binay said he was bothered by reports that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the the Chinese-funded Southrail project have not been located by officials of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and may have been lost.
He also recalled that the original ZTE-NBN contract was reportedly “stolen” in Boao, China.
Rodolfo Lozada Jr. had earlier told the Senate that like the ZTE-NBN deal, the Southrail project was overpriced, and kickbacks were received by administration allies.
Binay had asked the Senate to immediately act on a bill filed by detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to investigate the “Spratlys Deal”, which had been described by some sectors as an act of treason.
If Mrs. Arroyo had indeed signed the deal allowing China to explore Philippine territorial waters, “she has effectively given away Philippine sovereignty to a foreign power,” Binay said.
Binay said the failure of the PNR to submit the Southrail documents would show that Arroyo’s revocation of Executive Order 464 “was a mere PR move to placate the [Catholic] bishops.”
“Despite the over-hyped revocation of EO 464, the Southrail case shows that the Arroyo administration is the least interested in cooperating with the Senate, and would do everything to delay or even derail legislative inquiries,” he said.
The opposition leader said measures should be taken to ensure that all official documents and contracts remain intact and immediately provided to the proper investigating bodies.
Government officials must be held fully accountable, and if warranted, should be charged with infidelity in the custody of government documents, he added.
Citing newspaper publisher Amado Macasaet, Trillanes said Mrs. Arroyo might have committed treason if she signed the deal which would allow China to explore for oil and gas in the country’s territorial waters.
Spratlys deal limited to surveys
But in a March 3 statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the JMSU does not involve oil and gas exploration or exploitation.
“The JMSU is a joint evaluation of marine resources potential in the area claimed by participating countries and is limited to scientific surveys,” the DFA said.
“The JMSU does not impinge on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. Any activity beyond scientific surveys would be subject to further consultation and agreement among the participants, and would have to conform with our constitution and laws,” the DFA said. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)
(UPDATE) Gutierrez turns tables on Drilon on Spratlys issue
By Michael Lim Ubac, Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer INQUIRER.net
Posted date: March 12, 2008
MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez Tuesday said it was not she but then Senate President Franklin Drilon who had raised the issue of the yet to be signed bilateral agreement between the Philippines and China for a seismic study in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Denying what Drilon had told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last week—that she had sought his help in 2004 because she was worried that the agreement was in violation of the Constitution and that it could be grounds for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s impeachment—Gutierrez said it was actually the then Senate president who phoned her to ask what the agreement was all about.
The 2004 bilateral agreement was subsequently amended as the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, China and Vietnam—three of six claimants to the potentially oil- and gas-rich Spratlys—which was signed in 2005.
Gutierrez said the conversation took place when she was the acting justice secretary, and not when she was the President’s chief legal counsel, as Drilon had claimed.
“He called me when I was still at the DoJ [Department of Justice], not when I [was] already the chief legal counsel.
“He asked me if there was an exploration agreement being studied by [my] office between China and the Philippines. I said, ‘Sir, yes, but I think this would not be pursued because the project [involves a] geophysical survey and that would amount to exploration. And that cannot be pursued because this would violate the Constitution.’ That was our conversation,” she said in a press conference at her office.
Drilon had told the Inquirer newspaper that he was willing to testify on his conversation with Gutierrez under oath in a congressional inquiry.
The Ombudsman also denied having been pressured by then House Speaker Jose De Venecia or anyone to endorse the agreement.
“Nobody can force me to come up with an opinion. I cannot be pressured and I was not pressured. As secretary of justice, I always rely on the legal staff for recommendations. And pressure would not come in because we only rely on the facts and the law, and previous opinions by secretaries of justice,” she said.
Gutierrez said that if she had any concerns, she would have raised them personally with Ms Arroyo herself.
“The problem on constitutionality has been addressed and we agreed to the seismic undertaking—that it is not unconstitutional. So why the concern? And if I had that problem, I would tell the President. I don’t have to tell Senator Drilon,” Gutierrez said, adding:
“What is the use of calling him and telling him [about] my concerns? The concerns were addressed because the geophysical survey agreement did not push through. A different deal was signed—scientific research which is the seismic undertaking.”
She said the JMSU was signed when she was Ms Arroyo’s chief legal counsel.
Gutierrez said the earlier proposal for a Joint Geophysical Survey Agreement between Philippine National Oil Corp. and China National Offshore Oil Corp. was reviewed by the Department of Justice when she was acting justice secretary.
“The proposal being an exploration activity, I rendered an opinion that it cannot be pursued because it will violate the Constitution. So the proposal for the JMSU was instead agreed upon after interagency meetings. The proposed JMSU was confined only to seismic work, which involves data-gathering, collection and interpretation and are considered pre-exploration activities,” she said.
Gutierrez said the basis of her decision was DOJ Opinion No. 157, Series of 1990, which was issued by Drilon himself when he was justice secretary and was asked to render an opinion on a proposed seismic project between the Department of Energy and an Australian government agency.
She also said that whenever a proposal was submitted to it, the DOJ would be concerned not only about the legality of the proposal but also its wisdom and propriety.
“And even if we enter into agreements with foreign countries, the wisdom and propriety of entering into agreements would be within the competence of the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Gutierrez said.
She added that “the soundness of the plan … would depend on the proponent”—in this case, the DOE.
Thirst for oil
In Malacañang, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Sergio Apostol, Ms Arroyo’s chief legal counsel, said that if there would be no sign of oil in the study site, the JMSU might not be extended beyond June 2008.
In separate interviews before the start of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Apostol and Gonzalez said that just like the rest of the world, the Philippines was thirsting for oil.
Gonzalez said the “question of whether to let the agreement expire” would depend on “how much they have gone in the seismic survey, in the data-gathering.”
“Are there enough results that will substantiate that potential energy is within [the disputed area]?” he said.
“If there’s no [oil], why will you even talk about extending or whatever? [The state oil companies of the Philippines, China and Vietnam engaged in the study might find only a liter of oil], which is useless. But if there is a substantial find based on the technical survey … it will be worthwhile pursuing that,” he said.
Gonzalez said the “agreement to look for oil” was contained in the JMSU.
“But if there is no prospect of finding oil in that area, why will you go there?” he said when asked about the possibility that the second phase of the agreement, which deals with actual oil exploration and drilling, would be pursued after the pre-exploration stage.
Gonzalez maintained that the JMSU did not compromise the Philippines’ claim to part of the Spratlys.
“In this agreement, it’s very explicit that the claim of the Philippines is not being prejudiced. Neither are the claims of Vietnam and China,” he said.
Gonzalez said the Palace had accepted Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia’s challenge for it to disclose all documents related to the JMSU.
“Precisely, we are now very much in that direction. We are now talking about the baselines law of the Philippines in connection with the UNCLOS (1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said.
He pointed out that a bill was pending in the House seeking to define the baselines of the Philippine continental shelf and the 340-kilometer (200-mile) exclusive economic zone.
Gonzalez said there was actually no contentious issue, “except the issues being raised by the critics,” because as far as we are concerned, the agreement is legal, constitutional and valid.”
Apostol also suggested that the Philippines might not seek the extension of the JMSU if no oil was found.
“There is no move on the part of our partners to negotiate for the extension, so far. [The] thinking of the DOE is not to extend,” he said.
But Apostol clammed up when asked about the contents of the tripartite agreement.
“There is no recommendation yet [from the Palace legal team], and in the contract itself, there is a provision that says the matter cannot be revealed to the public. So to reveal it would violate that contract,” he said.
Don’t reveal to public
He added that the House and the Senate could each get a copy, but with “the admonition … that this cannot be revealed to the public.”
“These are commercial papers,” Apostol said. “You do not reveal the contents of the agreement; otherwise, your competitor will know what you are doing.”
He said the competitors were “other groups interested in getting the area.”
Apostol did not answer when asked if any trace of oil or gas had been detected so far. With a report from Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net
House body takes back bill defining RP territory
By Maila Ager
Posted date: March 11, 2008
MANILA, Philippines — A bill defining the country’s territory to include the disputed Spratly Islands, which has been pending at the plenary for final reading, will be sent back to the House committee on affairs.
This comes as controversy rages over an agreement the Philippines signed with China and Vietnam to conduct a seismic study of an area spanning 142,886 square kilometers in the South China Sea, including the disputed Spratlys.
The House committee, chaired by Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, overwhelmingly voted to recommit House Bill 3216 following an emergency meeting late Tuesday noon.
Of the more than 20 committee members present, only six voted to proceed with the plenary vote, said Sorsogon Representative Jose Solis.
Solis, who voted against sending back the bill to the committee on affairs, said Cuenco might raise the committee decision on the floor Tuesday night.
Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez and Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo also protested on the floor the manner by which the committee reversed its approval of the bill.
But senior deputy Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales said the group’s decision was not yet final.
“Regardless of the decision, there will be a move, any move on the matter to recommit the same. It will still have to be voted upon by the plenary and during that time, any member, including the distinguished, can vote against the motion,” Gonzales said.
The Spratlys — potentially oil-and mineral-rich islands, islets, reefs, atolls and cays — is being claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Analysis : An incendiary cocktail
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 11, 2008
MANILA, Philippines — A slew of congressional resolutions calling for inquiries into the 2004 agreement between the Philippines and China to undertake a joint seismic exploration of mineral resources in the Spratlys has introduced a foreign policy dimension to the national broadband network (NBN) corruption scandal. They seek to determine whether the agreement resulted in the “sellout” of Philippine sovereignty in exchange for an $8-billion loan package from China. The resolutions are an upshot of the current Senate investigation of the $329-million NBN deal with China’s ZTE Corp., which is part of the loan package.
Linking the NBN inquiry to the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) agreement has allowed administration critics to shift their focus from the narrow parochial issue of corruption to the larger vista, introducing treason as an element in the JMSU. The move also appears to be part of a search for new issues to throw into a new basket of impeachment complaints against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo being considered by some opposition members of Congress.
Foreign policy has hardly stirred up heated public debate in the country, but mixing up corruption issues with economic sovereignty issues adds up to a volatile and incendiary cocktail. So far, the Senate investigation into the ZTE deal has been dominated by the testimony, mainly based on hearsay, of star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. He has stolen the show in the Senate hearings with his entertaining style of presentation. Lozada’s performance at the hearings has made him a subject of close psychoanalysis concerning his character and what makes him the idol of middle-class citizens leading the protest movement calling for the President’s resignation.
Lozada has upstaged President Arroyo and her officials who have tried to undercut Lozada’s testimony at the hearings in terms of credibility, according to public opinion polls. His high credibility rating has exasperated the President and made her wonder why a glib whistleblower has captured the public imagination while her public satisfaction rating continues to sit at the bottom, despite her claims of hard work in driving the economy to unparalleled rates of growth during the past three decades.
Given the nature of Lozada’s testimony at the Senate hearings, many lawyers doubt if the testimony would stand rigorous scrutiny or bolster a new impeachment case. The Spratlys connection has provided a fresh dimension to prospects of a new impeachment case. Senate President Manuel Villar, who favors a Senate inquiry into the JMSU agreement, has said the President may be impeached if she allowed the joint exploration of resources in the Spratlys with China in exchange for allegedly graft-ridden loans. “Yes, it’s an impeachable offense,” Villar said.
To take off in Congress, a new impeachment complaint needs more gravitas to drive it than the testimony of Lozada and Romulo Neri, if he comes around to testifying before the Senate by getting out of the protective mantle of executive privilege. The “treason” angle of the JMSU rescues the ZTE-NBN scandal from a parochial framework (now focused on corruption) and gives it an international dimension.
International scholars and journalists were the first to introduce the “sellout” issue into the controversy. Their articles have prompted local politicians to echo the treason issue.
The expansion of the scope of the debate on ZTE-NBN scandal into the realm of foreign policy was sparked by the article of Barry Wain, a resident scholar at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, in the January-February 2008 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review. Wain wrote that President Arroyo’s hurried trip to China in 2004 produced “a major surprise.” Among the raft of agreements signed by China and the Philippines was one providing for their national oil companies to conduct a joint study in the contentious South China Sea, causing consternation in other parts of Southeast Asia. The visit also produced the contract with ZTE.
The Philippines broke ranks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which was dealing with China as a bloc, Wain wrote. “The Philippines also has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam. Through its actions, Manila has given certain legitimacy to China’s spurious ‘historic claim’ to most of the South China Sea.”
Wain further said that “the Philippines, militarily weak and lagging economically, had opted for Chinese favors at the expense of ASEAN political solidarity.” He quoted Mark Valencia, an independent expert on the South China Sea, as saying, “Some would say it (the JMSU) was a sellout on the part of the Philippines.”
The designated zone, a vast swathe of ocean off Palawan in Southern Philippines, said Wain, thrusts into the Spratlys and abuts Malampaya, “a Philippine producing gas field.” Wain quoted Valencia as saying, “Presumably for higher political purposes, the Philippines agreed to these joint surveys that include parts of its legal continental shelf that China and Vietnam don’t even claim.”
Some senators, like Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal and Antonio Trillanes, who have been desperately looking for more solid issues against President Arroyo for a possible new impeachment complaint, have picked up the “sellout” or “treason” theme. It’s catching fire and reducing Lozada’s capers to cheap entertainment.
Editorial : Tightening noose
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 11, 2008
MANILA, Philippines—As the story evolves, what are the issues emerging over the administration’s Spratlys policy—or the lack of it? The central issue remains the lack of a clear definition, because of a lack of transparency, of what exactly President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo set out to do concerning the Philippine claim to a portion of the Spratlys administratively considered part of Palawan province and which Filipinos call Kalayaan Islands.
The story, as it is unfolding, involves two contracts. The first was signed between two government-owned or controlled corporations, involving seismic mapping of the South China Sea. The bilateral contract between Chinese and Philippine government-owned firms was later replaced by a trilateral contract, involving state-owned firms from China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The contracts specified secrecy, except for authorized entities of the three governments.
The secrecy clause of the contracts is understandable in single-party states like China and Vietnam but brings up problems in a democracy like ours. That questionable aspect aside, the next question is whether the contracts were phrased in such a way as to give the administration a way of avoiding constitutionally-mandated disclosure requirements. Our Constitution authorizes the President to enter into deals involving mineral and petroleum resources, so long as the contracts that make them possible are transmitted to Congress. The administration argues that it has not had to do so, because the contracts only involve pre-exploration, and not even actual exploration, which is widely understood to be not just a prelude to, but an essential part of, of the actual exploitation of resources.
However, it’s been pointed out by reporters investigating the story, particularly Ricky Carandang, that whether or not the administration calls seismic mapping a purely pre-exploratory activity and not part and parcel of the exploitation of resources, the reality is that as far as the oil and gas industry is concerned, seismic sounding is considered an integral part of the exploitation process. This is because the costs of seismic sounding is large enough to require some sort of a guarantee that those undertaking the activity are given first crack at exploiting whatever oil and gas reserves are identified by the seismic mapping. Simply put: seismic mapping is not pre-exploration, it is part of exploration, and exploration, in turn, is part of the exploitation of resources.
So the allegation is that a false distinction has been made, to evade the Constitution’s requirements of presidential disclosure. Reporters are also zeroing in on the case of a company called Forum Energy that was given a license to explore for oil in Palawan, and which expected that it would then receive, pro forma, a service contract from the government once it found significant reserves. Instead, it was denied permission to drill—supposedly because our government faced pressure from China, emboldened by the Spratlys seismic mapping deal, which covered the part of Palawan that Forum Energy had previously been given permission to explore. Up against China, Forum Energy sold its rights to Monte Oro Resources and Energy, to which, in turn, a prominent businessman close to the President has been linked.
In the end, as the story is unfolding, the Palace’s response has been true to form and damning: It has tried to escape the tightening noose by simply voiding, or at least postponing the deal, in the hope that cancellation prevents accountability. This evasiveness only raises the question of why the government said it was perfectly legal—and yet so easily abandoned it. Not to mention the emerging issues of missing maps, a Philippine territorial base line not clearly established, which only further suggests that the administration at the very least was mucking about with deals over areas our own government isn’t even sure is ours, or someone else’s, and the corresponding problem that in agreeing to certain things, it was wittingly or worse, unwittingly, harming our own economic interests.
China objection stalls OK of bill on RP territory–solon
By Maila Ager
Posted date: March 12, 2008
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Strong opposition from the Chinese government, among others, has stalled the passage of a bill at the House of Representatives defining the country’s territory, including the disputed Spratly Islands.
House Bill 3216 has been pending on the floor for third and final reading but its principal author, Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, who is also chairman of the foreign affairs committee, would like to defer its approval until the resumption of session on April 20.
In a phone interview, Cuenco said he would file a motion on the floor this Wednesday, the last day of session before Congress goes on recess, to propose a “cooling off” period on discussions of this measure.
Cuenco’s proposal came despite his committee’s decision to send back the bill to the body for further amendments.
At a regular forum in Quezon City, Cuenco disclosed that the Chinese government expressed its objection to the bill in a “note verbale” dated December 2007 sent through the Philippine embassy in Beijing.
“There was a note from the Chinese government relayed to our embassy in Beijing expressing their objection to the bill,” he said over the phone.
“The Chinese are objecting to it. But I don’t consider it a pressure. It’s just normal. They have the right to object as we also have the right to object when there are things that would be detrimental to our interest,” he said.
In its note verbale, the Chinese government expressed shock and grave concern over the committee’s approval of a then draft proposal defining the baseline of the country’s territory that would include the disputed Spratly Islands.
China has been claiming “indisputable sovereignty” over NANSHA islands, including Scarborough Shoal and its adjacent waters.
“China is shocked by and gravely concerned with this negative development. We request the clarification from the Philippine side,” it had said.
Just to keep the friendship and stability in the disputed islands, the two countries had reached a consensus to refrain from “any action that would lead to complication and escalation of the situation,” it said.
By signing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, China and ASEAN countries all committed to exercise self-restraint, to refrain from taking actions that would have negative impact on peace and stability in the region, it said.
“If the Philippine side forcefully puts Scarborough Shoal and some other NANSHA reefs and islands inside the baseline of Philippine territorial seam, it will not only be conducive to the stability in the South China Sea but also disturb China-Philippine cooperation in the area, exerting negative impact on the healthy development of our bilateral relations,” it said.
“So the Chinese government believes that the approval of such proposal in the House did not conform to the common interest of the two countries nor did it serve the interest of the Philippines,” it said.
“Such a unilateral action will neither strengthen the legal position of the Philippine side nor will it be recognized and accepted by other parties and the international community,” the note said.
The Chinese government then appealed to the Philippines to “strictly abide” by the consensus and commitments agreed on by the two countries and handle the issue with “utmost prudence.”
The Chinese also requested Congress not to pursue the proposed measure.
But while claiming that they would not be pressured by anyone, Cuenco admitted that China’s protest was “one of the reasons” why the passage of the bill had been delayed.
Another reason was the opinion raised by lawyer Estelito Mendoza that the proposed map of the country’s base-line might not be in accordance with the law, he said.
Mendoza’s opinion is shared by Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Cuenco said.
Mendoza was present when the committee voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to send back the bill, although Cuenco said this decision has yet to be put to a formal motion on the floor.
But instead of making that motion, Cuenco said he would ask the plenary to defer action on the bill.
“Ang proposal ko, huwag munang galawin. Huwag munang ibalik sa committee o aprubahan sa [My proposal is to defer it. That it should not be returned to the committee or approved on] third and final reading,” he said.
“Let’s call for an all party-caucus first when we resume next month before we resume our discussions on the bill,” he said.
Palawan wants bill defining RP baselines to include Kalayaan
By Redempto Anda
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 11, 2008
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines — The province of Palawan, which regards the Kalayaan Islands in the Spratlys as its 23rd municipality, urged the national government on Tuesday to fast-track the passage of a pending measure in Congress that would include the municipality inside the country’s baseline.
Local officials have pinned their position on the presumption that by treating Kalayaan islands as part of Palawan’s land mass, the province has a leverage to demand for a share in the proceeds of offshore energy development projects in the area.
They also view the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking as a complicating factor in the development of oil and gas reserves around Palawan through the awarding of service contracts to private oil companies.
They pointed out that while JMSU was not a treaty, it bound the country into the tripartite mode of developing any oil and gas deposit that may be discovered as a result of the joint survey.
“While its intention may be valid in terms of strengthening working relations with other claimant countries, it has far reaching implications that could compromise national interests just because we have yet to establish our territorial boundaries,” Representative Abraham Kahlil Mitra (First District, Palawan) told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
Mitra said the government should refrain from pursuing the JMSU and stick with the system of bidding out service contracts in offshore blocks as a strategy to exploit territorial waters for energy deposits.
“The service contract approach is sufficient and viable enough as a strategy to promote energy independence rather than involving other claimant countries. It becomes more problematic simply because we have not even established our territories properly,” he said.
The Department of Energy has so far awarded at least 28 service contracts to private companies around the province, some of which have already discovered recoverable reserves.
Vice Governor David Ponce de Leon expressed concern over how the Philippine government would follow through the JMSU.
“While this is just a commercial agreement, not a treaty–that’s a very volatile area. If they found oil and we have not firmed up our claim, that’s very dangerous and could spark differences,” he said.
The national government, however, is eyeing excluding the Kalayaan islands inside the baseline, and treating the same as “a regime of islands” under the Unclos (United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea) principle that recognizes claims over areas that are connected to a claimant country’s continental shelf.
Representative Antonio Alvarez (2nd district) justified the inclusion of the Kalayaan Islands in the baseline by stating that Unclos allowed the country to make “an inclusive and broad claim as international law allows.”
Alvarez said the immediate passage of House Bill 3216 or the baseline bill would be “important in guiding us in any agreement that we may enter into with any party or country in the future.”
“The Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) has been recognized as part of the Palawan Province and our fishermen are plying these waters on a daily basis to earn their livelihood. It is compelling for us to categorically include these islands and the Scarborough Shoal within our baseline,” Alvarez said in a statement.
“To the people of Palawan who greatly rely on the bounty of the sea for livelihood, not to mention the presence of oil and gas reserves, this is a very significant issue. This is not just an abstract legal concept but one that strikes at the very core of our livelihood and economic well-being,” he added.
The bill, which was approved on second reading by the House of Representatives last December, proposes 135 basepoints with four baselines which encloses the main archipelago, the Scarborough Shoal and the KIG.
The KIG forms part of the Spratly Islands, which is the subject of dispute of six countries including the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei.