Press Release
February 3, 2009


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said that the House version of the baselines bill is "fatally flawed" and "a potential diplomatic disaster."

Santiago criticized the House version which includes the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal inside the Philippine archipelagic baselines, "because it violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos)."

By contrast, the Senate version which Santiago sponsored claims the two, but places both, under the "regime of islands" principle, which is allowed by the Unclos.

Under Unclos, an archipelago is allowed to draw straight baselines from the outermost points of the outermost islands, provided that the baselines adhere to the natural configuration of the archipelago.

Santiago also said that it is "futile" to include the Spratlys inside the archipelagic baseline, because many of the Spratly islands are already occupied by several Southeast Asian countries and China .

"It defies reality when a state claims sovereignty over islands which are in the physical possession of other states," she said.

Santiago , who is suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, declined to head the Senate panel to the bicameral conference committee, and instead endorsed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to head the panel.

"Since the House panel will be headed by no less than the Speaker, it is only appropriate that the Senate panel should be headed by the Senate President," she said.

Santiago said that she had the "fullest confidence in the analytical judgments" of both Speaker Nograles and Senate President Enrile.

"It is really a very simple choice. We have to scale down without surrendering our territorial claims. The unacceptable choice is to claim as much territory as we want, alienate the rest of the international community, and operate as a pariah in international law," she said.

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