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Con-com: Proposed Charter has provision referring to West PHL Sea

Con-com: Proposed Charter has provision referring to West PHL Sea

The Consultative Committee (Con-com) behind a proposal for a federal Constitution has contradicted former chief justice Hilario Davide, Jr.'s claim that its work skipped mention of the West Philippine Sea in its provisions on national territory.

In a statement late Tuesday night, committee spokesman Conrado Generoso said the panel referred to the West Philippine Sea in its draft article on national territory in the section that states the country "has sovereign rights over that maritime expanse beyond its territorial sea to the extent reserved to it by international law."

"Reserved by international law" pertains to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and "maritime expanse" to the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers both the West Philippine Sea in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east, he said.

"You cannot put West Philippine Sea or Pacific Ocean because you do not know the bounds of these bodies of water—the best that you can do is define the “expanse of water (200 miles) reserved by international law," he said.

"If you say West Philippine Sea, you have to say Pacific Ocean."

Davide earlier alluded to the administration's "fear of or love for China" when he said the Con-com failed to mention "West Philippine Sea" even as it identified the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) in its proposed article.

During a press briefing in April, a Con-com member said the revised version of the article, then yet to be approved by the full committee, aimed to give "constitutional status" to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated China's massive claims to the South China Sea in 2016.

"It gives constitutional status to the arbitral judgment. After all, it was a judgment that declared that we had certain rights that could not be trespassed," Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, committee member, then said.

"We're obligating the government also to assert our sovereign rights," he said.

Meanwhile, Generoso dared the former chief magistrate to "offer a sound legal and constitutional principle" why "West Philippine Sea" should be explicitly identified in the proposed provision.

"Does Davide offer a sound legal or constitutional reason for saying West Philippine Sea should be in the Constitution? If he only finds an imagined “ghost” as reason for ConCom not doing it, his statement is not worth a grain of salt," he said.

Generoso said the 1987 Constitution's article on territory does not mention the West Philippine Sea—or South China Sea—despite its being ratified after the Philippines signed the UNCLOS in 1984.

This is the Con-com's proposal for the article on National Territory:

"SECTION 1. The Philippines has sovereignty over its territory, consisting of the islands and waters encompassed by its archipelagic baselines, its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, and its airspace. It has sovereignty over islands and features outside its archipelagic baselines pursuant to the laws of the Federal Republic, the law of nations, and the judgments of competent international courts or tribunals. It likewise has sovereignty over other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title."

"SECTION 2. The Philippines has sovereign rights over that maritime expanse beyond its territorial sea to the extent reserved to it by international law, as well as over its extended continental shelf, including the Philippine Rise. Its citizens shall enjoy the right to all resources within these areas."

On the other hand, the 1987 Constitution words the same article this way:

"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."

—KG, GMA News