A FORMER Supreme Court justice has presented to President Rodrigo R. Duterte a draft bill that will specifically name and identify the maritime features that is claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea.
In a statement, retired Supreme Court Justice Francis H. Jardeleza said he sent a letter to Mr. Duterte, along with the draft measure, urging him to consider the enactment of a new baselines law which will help enforce the arbitral ruling which favored the Philippines in the maritime territorial dispute.
“We respectfully submit that the best, most efficient and practical option to enforce the Award is to… legislate a new Baselines Law, consistent with the [Arbitral] Award,” he said in his letter dated June 5.
“The bill not only enforces the Award but also ensures that the Philippines is the first claimant to legislate the individual names and baselines of the claimed features,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Jardeleza said they leave it to the President as to who will possibly sponsor the bill in Congress.
“We leave it to do the good judgement of the President and his advisers to determine whether he needs to certify a bill and if he needs to certify a bill who will be the sponsor,” he said in a briefing on Monday.
The proposed measure identified at least 100 maritime features in the West Philippine Sea, 35 of which were said to be rocks or “high tide features that generate a territorial sea and a contiguous zone.”
Mr. Jardeleza, also a former solicitor general and part of the Philippine team during the arbitral proceedings, said a new baseline law “is the most inexpensive and yet most effective means of enforcing the Arbitral Award and strengthening our territorial and maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea.”
He also said that the proposal names individual features “thus, it constitutes an act of sovereignty in relation to each feature.”
The other proponents of the measure are University of Hong Kong law professor Melissa H. Loja, and Romel Regalado Bagares, a law professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and San Sebastian College-Recoletos.
The Arbitral Award in 2016 favored the Philippines and rejected China’s claim to more than 80% of the disputed waterway based on a 1940s map.
The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests against China due to their continued presence in the country’s exclusive economic zone. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas