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PIA Press Release

PGMA signs baselines bill into law

Manila (12 March) -- The controversial baselines bill is now a law after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed it Tuesday ensuring international recognition of the Philippines' baselines.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the newly-enacted law, known as Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baseline Law, affirms the country's claim of its territorial waters, extended continental shelf, economic zones, and the controversial Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Scarborough shoal off the waters of Palawan province.

The Philippine government, in its claim of areas, is official as far as economic zones are concerned… "We are asserting our sovereignty because that's the right thing to do," Ermita said.

RA 9522 is necessary in meeting the deadline of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) set for May 13 this year for countries and archipelagic states to submit their claims for an extended continental shelf.

Department of Foreign Affairs Executive Director Henry Bensurto said the law is a "clinical and technical adjustment" of the existing baseline law as required by UNCLOS.

"The adjustment was in purpose of making it compliant to UNCLOS. Since UNCLOS lays down all technical requirements by which the archipelago can draw baselines, it is imperative for us to adjust the technical requirements as compliance to UNCLOS," Bensurto said.

He noted that UNCLOS did not yet exist when the old law RA 3046 on baselines was signed. UNCLOS was established in 1994.

Under the new law, the disputed KIG and Scarborough Shoal remain part of Philippine territory but under a "regime of islands," defined by UNCLOS Article 121 as "islands that are naturally formed areas of land, surrounded by water, which are above water at high tide."

Aside from the Philippines, the disputed islands are also being claimed by five other countries -- Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Earlier, both China and Vietnam took offense on the final version of the baselines bill.

Ermita said since six countries, mostly Southeast Asian nations, lay claim to the islands in whole or in part, the Philippines "respects various agreements and conducts entered we entered into."

"We are mindful of the fact that we claim this. We are not an isolated country but we are part of a community. We have to take into account that community and honor various agreements we entered into," Ermita said. (PNA) [top]

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