Duterte orders study on proposed amendments to PH baselines law

Published June 10, 2021, 1:38 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is willing to look into the proposed amendments to the country’s baselines law that supposedly aim to strengthen the nation’s claim to the West Philippine Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo/Malacañang)

The President ordered complete staff work on the proposed reforms on the country’s maritime boundaries made by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, according to his Spokesman Harry Roque.

Jardeleza recently sent a letter to the President seeking to certify as urgent a bill amending the Republic Act No. 9522 or the country’s baselines law, saying it would be the “most efficient and practical option” to enforce the arbitral award on the South China Sea issue.

Jardeleza served as the Solicitor General during the Aquino administration that challenged China’s excessive claims over the disputed territory. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a decision in favor of the Philippines. China however has ignored the ruling and insisted on its historic claims to the territory.

Roque said the President appreciated the suggestion made by the former magistrate on defining the country’s archipelagic baselines.

“He immediately asked that it be subjected to complete staff work and he was very appreciative of the suggestion,” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday, June 10.

He noted that the Office of the Executive Secretary will first study the proposal and then submit a recommendation to the President. “It’s just an openness to study the matter,” he added.

If the President backs the proposal, Roque said he would suggest the inclusion of the measure in Duterte’s next State of the Nation Address.

The measure, proposed by Jardeleza amid the recent Chinese incursions in local waters, seeks to identify the maritime features in the West Philippine Sea. It likewise seeks to reaffirm the country’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, as appropriate over these features.

The country’s baselines law, which defines the country’s territorial waters and considers the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal as a “regime of islands” under the Philippines, was signed by then President Arroyo in 2009.