The Bangsamoro Territory: Explanatory Arguments for Territorial Waters

Brief Background        

The nationally defined territory of the Philippines consists of the public domain which is made up of areas that were ceded by Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris of 1898.  The operative stipulation concerning the cession reads in part: “Spain cedes to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands, and comprehending the islands within” certain lines drawn along specified degrees longitude East and latitude North.

There is opposition to the Philippine claim of sovereignty over its inter-island waters to the effect that the waters comprehended within the imaginary lines mentioned in the Treaty were not included.  This view holds that only the islands were transferred but not the intervening waters.2  In this context, the Bangsamoro people more so have raised the question of the lack of plebiscitary consent on their part as the chief flaw in the framework of cession.

International law attaches a portion of maritime territory consisting of what the law called “territorial waters” to States whose land is washed by the sea.  Beyond its land domain and its internal waters that belt of territorial sea adjacent to the coast, which is described as “territorial sea”, forms part of the coastal State.  In regard to this point, Philippine stand as to the extent of the territorial sea to be fixed as limit is open.

The Philippines is not a party to the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. But it signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 10 December 1982 and ratified it on 8 May 1984. The Philippine Government adopted in 1992 a national policy on the Law of the Sea based on UNCLOS although the Convention became effective only on 16 November 1994.

Read full text of paper (in .pdf, 20pp.) 

2 Territorial delimitation has preoccupied debates on the National Territory during the Constitutional Conventions that drafted the 1935 Constitution and 1973 Constitution. The expressions in the 1973 Constitution make no reference to treaties and define the country as an archipelago and its internal waters.

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