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‘Questions vs Baselines Law moot’

First Posted 17:46:00 04/27/2009

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MANILA, Philippines?Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Monday said the petition questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act 9522 or the Baselines Law is already moot and academic.

The justice chief said the law has already been submitted to the United Nations, making it part of, and in the country?s compliance to, international law.

?We have already submitted it with the United Nations, the petition is already moot and academic,? Gonzalez said.

?By submitting it to the UN, it should be assumed that we have complied with the requirements of international law,? he added.

Gonzalez said they have already submitted their comment with the Supreme Court.

The new baselines law was passed supposedly to meet the deadline set by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) III regime for member-States to draw its baselines on or before May 13, 2009.

But petitioners, led by the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), argue that the new law cannot amend the 1987 Constitution which carries the definition of the Philippine archipelago. The 1987 Constitution also used as basis for defining the Philippine archipelago the Treaty of Paris, Treaty of Washington, and the Convention between the US and Great Britain in 1930.

Under the Treaty of Paris, Philippine territory takes the form of a rectangle measuring 600 miles in width and 1200 miles in length but the large areas have been chopped by RA 9522.

The new law, the petitioner added, has lost 1,500 square nautical miles of territorial waters.

They added that the final version of the law contradicted the 1987 Constitution when it made the "waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago" subject to the use of foreign vessels as well as the airspace for foreign planes.

But, the executive department, through the Office of the Solicitor General told that high court that they did not amend the Constitution with the enactment of RA 9522.

?RA 9522 does not amend?certainly, does not radically reduce or ?dismember,? the national territory, but assures that the limits of the maritime areas of the Philippines are respected by other states. No provision of the Constitution, least of all Article 1, the ?National Territory,? has been violated by its enactment into law,? Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said.

In fact, the government lawyer explained, following the Law of the Sea Convention of 1994?in contrast to being frozen by a rigid adherence to the Treaty of Paris proposition?has expanded the maritime areas over which the Philippines has sovereign rights by 586, 210 sq. nautical miles under LOSC with baselines under RA 9522 from 440,994 sq. nautical miles under the Treaty of Paris Proposition.

At the same time, the government lawyer told the high court that issuing a temporary restraining order is no longer appropriate because the Philippine Mission to the United Nations already deposited an original copy of the law with the UN Secretary General through UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS).

?Where the acts sought to be enjoined have already become fait accompli, or accomplished or consummated, injunction would not lie,? the government said.

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