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Malacañang defends tagging of Kalayaan as 'regime of islands'

April 7, 2008 7:02pm
MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Monday justified its position to consider the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and the Scarborough as a “regime of islands" instead of within the Philippines' territorial baselines.

According to President Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, the move was only for the purpose of beating the May 2009 deadline of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and does not mean that the country has given up its claims.

Remonde added that the Cabinet discussions with international law experts such as former justice secretary Estelito Mendoza tackled the doctrine of the regime of islands.

“There was no mention that by considering these as a regime of islands that our claim is being given up. It's just for the purpose of expediting our being able to comply with the requirements of the Unclos for which there is a given deadline. Otherwise, we will not beat the deadline and we will be violating the Unclos," Remonde said.

He said the study group that is taking up the country's claims has “considered what is best for the Philippines."

His remark came days after Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita wrote a letter to Speaker Prospero Nograles.

In that letter, dated April 4, Malacañang reiterated the position of the Executive branch to “treat the Kalayaan Group of Islands as a regime of islands."

Ermita, who also chairs the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs (CMOA), has said not including the Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoal within the archipelagic baselines does not mean giving up the country's claim over the islands.

He also said that this position will not diminish the Philippines' exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.

The House of Representatives has passed on second reading House Bill 3216 which includes both Scarborough and KIG within the archipelagic baseline of the country.

Malacañang had the bill recommitted to the committee level reportedly for fear that it would create a lot of problems, including diplomatic issues with China.

Alfonso Tan, president of the fishing federation, has also recommended during the National Food Summit last April 4 the passage of a Baselines bill as well as the crafting of agreements that seek to increase the production and income of the fishery sector.

Tan has said government should enter into diplomatic agreements to identify fishing grounds. He also proposed that the area from the shoreline where fishing is allowed be amended from 10.1 kilometers to 18 kilometers.

“Not all waters have fish...Some areas prohibit commercial fishing based orders of local government units," he has said.

He said the high price of fuel and other operating costs are lowering the income of fishermen and resulting in their displacement. - GMANews.TV