Claims over WPS, Sabah included in draft federal charter by general principles: Pimentel

Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr., a member of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) formed by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the current Constitution, told CNN Philippines’ The Source that he wanted to specifically include Scarborough Shoal, Spratly Islands, Philippine Rise in the proposed federal constitution.

“Ang gusto ko lang sana na in the definition of our national territory (Article 1) – gusto ko sana isali na Scarborough atin ‘yun, Spratlys atin, Benham (Benham (Philippine) Rise,” Pimentel said. “Of course ang suggestion ng karamihan sa ConCom na may means and bounds lang.”

He said that he wanted to be more specific in the definition of national territory, however, majority of ConCom members said doing so will make the proposed constitution very thick. The reason why ConCom chose to provide general principles in Article 1 of their proposed federal constitution.

Pimentel said by providing means and bounds in the constitution Benham Rise, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal are already included in national territory.

He added that claim over Sabah is included in the national territory provision of the proposed federal constitution through the historic rights phrase.

The draft federal constitution also recognizes ruling of competent international courts or tribunals, like the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling.

Article 1 National Territory of the final draft of ConCom’s proposed federal constitution states:

The Philippines has sovereignty over its territory, consisting of the islands and waters encompassed by its archipelagic baselines, its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, and its airspace. It has sovereignty over islands and features outside its archipelagic baselines pursuant to the laws of the Federal Republic, the law of nations, and the judgments of competent international courts or tribunals. It likewise has sovereignty over other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.

The Philippines has sovereign rights over that maritime expanse beyond its territorial sea to the extent reserved to it by international law, as well as over its extended continental shelf, including the Philippine Rise. Its citizens shall enjoy the right to all resources within these areas.

In contrast, Article 1 of the current Constitution, with only one section, states:

The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.