World court and the Spratlys (5)

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.

Miraculously for the Philippines, her understanding of an “archipelago” found congruence with the specific definition thereof in Article 46, par. (b) of the resultant  document  embodying  the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (which began in 1973) approved in Montego Bay, Jamaica on December 10, 1982.

The cited provision defines an “archipelago” as  “ xxx a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters and other natural features which are so closely interrelated that such islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographic, economic and political entity, or which historically have been regarded as such.”

UNCLOS  1982  has long been ratified by the required number of member states, and is now a recognized precept of international law.

Verily, therefore, and applying the “archipelago doctrine”, the Philippine national territory encompasses the Spratlys  that physically lie off the western coast of Palawan.

The Philippines once again invoked the “archipelago doctrine” in defining our national territory in Article 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

But here’s the catch – and the reason for the resurgent interest of China in the Spratlys.

In measuring the extent of our territorial sea, or fluvial jurisdiction, under the archipelago principle, we draw a straight line from one tip of the farthest land mass and connect it to the other tip.

From that straight line we measure 12 nautical miles seaward, and that is the extent of our territorial sea. (To be continued)

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