World court and the Spratlys (4)

THE delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention were initially at loggerheads on whether to include an article in the constitution, defining our national territory.

Delegate Voltaire Garcia (Rizal) passionately argued in plenary that our national territory was subject to international law and not for OUR municipal law (our constitution included) to UNILATERALLY define.

It is enough, Garcia stressed, that we invoke existing international law treaties (like the Treaty of Paris) when asserting our national territory – a prudent strategy that will spare Filipinos international embarrassment every time any  other nation gets minded to  ignore our claim.

“But it is precisely to shield us from the arrogance of some neighboring countries that an article defining our national territory was imperative,” Delegate Raul Roco (Camarines Sur) countered.

“Such territorial definition was necessary for the preservation of our national wealth, for national security and as a manifestation of our solidarity as a people,”  concluded Delegate Roco. (Concon session speech, February 15, 1972).

That paved the way for the eventual crafting of Article 1 of the 1973 Constitution, which read:

“The national territory comprises the Philippine Archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories belonging to the Philippines, by historic right or legal title, including the territorial sea, the air space, the subsoil, the seabed, the insular shelves and other submarine areas over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction. The waters around, between and connecting the islands of the archipelago, irrespective of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.”

Actually, our concept of an “archipelago” as early as then was not new.
We already unilaterally adopted the same with the signing into law on June 17, 1961 of R.A. No. 3046.

Actually, our concept of an “archipelago” as early as then was not new.
We already unilaterally adopted the same with the signing into law on June 17, 1961 of R.A. No. 3046.

We transplanted it in the 1973 Constitution, hoping it would gain international acceptance since a  Convention on the Law of the Sea was about to be held in that same year. (To be continued)

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