President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his staff to review the proposed national baselines law of retired Supreme Court associate justice Francis Jardeleza to craft a new law to enforce the arbitral award the Philippines won in its West Philippine Sea (WPS) disputes with China.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its petition filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands against China for its sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea. The Arbitral Court ruled that China’s claims have no legal basis.
China, however, has repeatedly ignored the PCA ruling.
Earlier, Jardeleza submitted a letter to Duterte urging the Chief Executive to certify as urgent the measure that seeks amendments to Republic Act (RA) 9522 which defines the baselines of the Philippines’ territorial sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President “immediately asked that it be subjected to complete staff work and he was very appreciative of the suggestion.”
Jardeleza said his proposed law, titled “Philippine Maritime Features of the West Philippine Sea Act,” aims to specifically name and identify the maritime features in WPS claimed or occupied by the country.
The proposed measure identifies at least 100 maritime features in WPS, 25 of which are “said to be rocks or high tide features that generate a territorial sea and a contiguous zone.”
In crafting the proposed law, Jardeleza was assisted by international law academics, Dr. Melissa Loja and Professor Romel Bagares.
He urged the President to certify the bill as urgent as it “is the most inexpensive and yet most effective means of enforcing the Arbitral Award and strengthening our territorial and maritime rights” in WPS.
One of the most important provisions in the proposed law states that the Philippines “has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, as appropriate, over the following identified maritime features in WPS, without prejudice to other such features that will be discovered or established as part of the Philippine sovereignty or jurisdiction in the future.”
Roque said Duterte would first await the recommendation of the Office of the Executive Secretary’s legal office before making a decision on the proposed amendments to RA 9522. He added that China is expected to voice its express strong objection to the proposed baselines law.
He, however, said the Philippines would be unfazed by China’s possible protest, in case Duterte pushes the proposed bill.
“We expect that but we do not care about their reaction. We have a law and we will let the international tribunal, when the time comes, to rule as to who really has the superior claim over the islands that will be listed in our baselines law as part of our territory,” he asserted.