Press Release
February 17, 2009

Senate President hails speedy agreement on 2009 Baseline Bill

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile today hailed the compromise agreement reached by the Bicameral Conference Committee on the 2009 Baseline Bill that will finally establish the country's maritime boundaries based on internationally-accepted standards.

"The speedy reconciliation of the disagreeing provisions of the 2009 Baseline Bill shows that we have a Congress that can work together under the true spirit of bilateralism. This bill is the version of both Houses of Congress," Enrile said after the bicam committee signed the final version of the bill after less than an hour of deliberation Monday morning.

Enrile led the Senate contigent while Rep. Antonio Cuenco, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, served as his counterpart. With the bicam report on the bill finalized, Enrile said he expected the Senate and the House to ratify the bill anytime soon.

Enrile said he and Cuenco were able to iron out almost all disagreeing provisions of the bill and noted that the key contribution of the House was the inclusion of the phrase "under the Republic of the Philippines" after "regime of islands" in Section 2 of the bill.

The "regime of islands" refers to the areas over which the Philippines exercises "sovereignty and jurisdiction." This includes the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and Scarborough Shoal.

Enrile said once the bill is signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippines can invoke the provisions of international law in delineating the boundaries of Philippine territory. Once enacted, Enrile said the Department of Foreign Affairs will then deposit the measure to the United Nations for registration as required by the international convention.

Enrile explained that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires the Philippines and other archipelagic nations to approve a baselines law by May 13, 2009, in order to avail of the provisions of the Convention, particularly in relation to the rights and privileges of an archipelagic state such as the Philippines over the different maritime zones.

Enrile had earlier expressed confidence that the House contingent will adopt the Senate's version of the bill, saying it is the more realistic approach in solving the problem with Kalayaan Island and Scarborough Shoal.

He believed there will be no contentious issue as the Senate version is in accordance with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.

He said the Senate, in its version, considers the Kalayaan Island and Scarborough Shoal as part of the Philippine property but they also have to consider the claims of other countries to avoid any possible controversies.

"From the internal law viewpoint, Kalayaan and Scarborough are considered by the Philippines as part of its territory, but from the viewpoint of international law there are other claimants so we have to deal with the problem both from the viewpoint of internal law which is disputed by other countries," Enrile said. "Looking at it, from our internal law, those (islands) are ours but we cannot impose that judgment on other people."

Enrile noted that all Filipinos agree that Kalayaan and Scarborough Shoal are part of the country "but there is a question of legal engineering and we took great caution in approaching this problem in relation to the claims of other countries."

News Latest News Feed