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Joint Congressional Commission on the National Territory Proposed

May 22, 2008

As this corner first reported several weeks ago, there is now a formal proposal for the creation of a joint congressional commission to fully study the country’s territorial baselines, along with the various territorial disputes of the Philippines with other countriesm particularly its ASEAN neighbors.

Finally yesterday, Senator Mirian Defensor Santiago, who conducted quiet hearings on the matter some weeks ago, filed her resolution seeking the formation of the national territoy commission.

Here’s the news account:

Senate’s nod over creation of body on territorial claim sought

Article posted May 22, 2008 – 03:18 AM
MANILA, Philippines – A senator on Wednesday asked the Senate to approve the creation of a body that will formulate the country’s claim to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago recommended the plenary’s approval of Joint Resolution 12 which seeks to create the Congressional Commission on National Territory.

“The approaches taken in dealing with territorial problems are piecemeal and crisis-oriented, apparently on the assumption that national territory is fragmented into separate issues, each to be resolved by disconnected attempts and thus resulting in halfway and makeshift solutions,” she said.

Congress is scrambling to pass a law that seeks to define the country’s territorial boundaries as set in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that all archipelagic states must submit claims for an extended continental shelf (ECS) on or before May 13, 2009.

But Ms. Santiago said the Philippines is “not obligated to submit a claim,” adding that Article 47 of UNCLOS does not compel archipelagic states to draw baselines, and that there will be no sanctions for failure to define baselines.

The bicameral body will be composed of 10 members with equal representation from the Senate and House of Representatives.

The commission will submit a report not later than Dec. 31, 2008 on the impact of UNCLOS, prioritizing constitutional issues, boundaries, areas of possible conflict with other multilateral international treaties, legal status and effectiveness of Batas Pambansa Resolution 121 concurring in the UNCLOS, ECS claims and assessment of the country’s sovereignty over KIG and Scarborough Shoal as claimed by other countries. – Bernard U. Allauigan, BusinessWorld

We do hope there will be immediate positive action on this proposal. We have it on good authority that noted international law professor, former U.P. College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona may be among those tapped to play an active role in the Commission. If this happens, we will be assured of having the voice of a genuine nationalist in the body.
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