Amend baseline law, Palace tells Congress

Congress should change the country’s 13-year old baseline law so the Philippines could better assert its rights in the South China Sea, according to the Presidential Palace.

The Archipelagic Baselines Law weakened Philippine claims to the waterway by redefining the country’s internal waters as “archipelagic waters,” presidential spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.

The law declares the Philippines as an archipelagic state and uses the straight baseline method to set up sea boundaries with neighboring coastal states.

Mr. Roque has said the law, passed in 2009 to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), cut the area of the country’s territorial sea.

He added that UNCLOS had not been effective in deterring Chinese presence in the South China Sea because it only covers territorial waters, not islands.

A new law should be created to adopt the principle of boundaries laid down in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, he said.

The treaty, through which Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, defines the Philippine archipelago as having a rectangular shape, measuring about 600 miles in width and 1,200 miles in length, according to a study published by the University of Wollongong in Australia.

“Maybe we need to create a new archipelagic laws where we can assert the Treaty of Paris boundaries and the additional territories as part of our sovereign rights based on UNCLOS,” Mr. Roque said in Filipino. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza