Sunday, July 13, 2008

Philippines : Archipelagic Doctrine


Fifty years ago, on 7 March 1955, the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York city formally submitted to the United Nations Secretary General, by note verbale, the Philippine assertion that: “ All waters around, between and connecting different islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, irrespective of their width or dimension, are necessary appurtenances of its land territory, forming an integral part of the national or inland waters, subject to the exclusive sovereignty of the Philippines.”

This was the very first formulation of the key principle that would define the Philippines as a mid-ocean archipelagic state. Indeed, the principles contained in that note verbale would serve to this day as the bases of Philippine laws and policies and would even be later enshrined in the 1973 and 1987 Philippine Constitution.(end of quote)__________________________________________________

The archipelagic principle is a fundamental pillar of the Philippine concept of national territory :

The guiding principle for resolving the issue about offshore islands is the archipelagic principle, which is enshrined in Art. 1 of the 1987 Constitution and has been one of the fundamental pillars of the Philippine concept of national territory. Since the 1950s, the Philippines has pushed this principle, which led to the so-called "Archipelagic Doctrine" in international law and has become the legal and political basis for considering our 7,107 islands as one political unit. The "Archipelagic Doctrine" is one of our most important contributions to the international legal system; without it, the widely scattered islands of our archipelago will be separated by international waters, and the Filipino nation will be deprived of the large tracts of marine resources between the islands that it has claimed since its inception.

Central to the archipelagic principle is the concept of equality between landmasses, where each island regardless of size is treated in the same manner as all others. Without such equality of treatment, small outlying islands like Tawi-Tawi and Batanes may be considered as mere territories not entitled to provincial or municipal status; at most they may be mere attachments to some province located in one of the 10 major landmasses of the country. Equally important to the archipelagic principle is the concept of unity between land and water, where the water forms the link between the disparate islands. The proper application of the doctrine demands that, as a national policy, we should treat all of our islands in the same manner, not allowing some of them to be insignificant as if they were mere parts of the water, and that we should not allow the waters to create highly fragmented political units.

Arial Domains

Article 1, Sovereignty : The contracting States recognize that every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory.This refers to the air space above the land and waters of the State. The Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention, established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations charged with coordinating and regulating international air travel. The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel. The Convention also exempts air fuels from tax. The document was signed on December 7, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, by 52 signatory states. The Convention defines the supreme authority of each state to its airspace. Relevant provisions of the convention relates to such recognition and the elements of a state’s territory

Territorial Waters

Out to 12 nautical miles from the baseline, the coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Vessels were given the right of "innocent passage" through any territorial waters, with strategic straits allowing the passage of military craft as "transit passage", in that naval vessels are allowed to maintain postures that would be illegal in territorial waters. "Innocent passage" is defined by the convention as passing through waters in an expeditious and continuous manner, which is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of the coastal state. Fishing, polluting, weapons practice, and spying are not “innocent", and submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag. Nations can also temporarily suspend innocent passage in specific areas of their territorial seas, if doing so is essential for the protection of its security.Archipelagic watersThe convention set the definition of Archipelagic States in Part IV, which also defines how the state can draw its territorial borders. A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands, subject to these points being sufficiently close to one another. All waters inside this baseline will be Archipelagic Waters and included as part of the state's internal waters.

Internal waters

Covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline. The coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Foreign vessels have no right of passage within internal waters.


Baselines are reference lines drawn by a coastal or archipelagic State using different methods as discussed below. They are used to measure the breadth of the territorial sea (12nm), contiguous zone (24 nm), EEZ (200nm) and continental shelf (up to 350nm). Also, the waters enclosed by the baselines are called archipelagic waters over which an archipelagic State exercises sovereignty.According to the UNCLOS, there are three methods that can be employed in determining a State’s baselines, namely:

1. Normal Baseline, according to Art. 5, “is the low-water line along the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognized by the coastal State.”

2. Straight Baseline, according to Art. 7, can be employed if ever “the coastlines are indented and cut into or there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity.”

3. Archipelagic Baseline, according to Art. 47, is a method of “joining the outermost points of the outermost islands and drying reefs of an archipelago provided that within such baselines are included the main island and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of the land, including atolls, is between 1:1 and 9:1.”

Of the three methods, the archipelagic baselines method is most applicable and advantageous to an archipelago such as ours. Otherwise, to use either the Normal or Straight baseline methods, which are primarily designed for coastal States, would effectively waive our status as an archipelagic State and lose much of the archipelagic waters as defined above.

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