PROF. MERLIN M. MAGALLONA, et.al v. HON. EDUARDO ERMITA, IN HIS CAPACITY AS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, et.al G.R. No.

187167, 16 July 2011, EN BANC (Carpio, J.) The conversion of internal waters into archipelagic waters will not risk the Philippines because an archipelagic State has sovereign power that extends to the waters enclosed by the archipelagic baselines, regardless of their depth or distance from the coast. R.A. 9522 was enacted by the Congress in March 2009 to comply with the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which the Philippines ratified on February 27, 1984. Such compliance shortened one baseline, optimized the location of some basepoints around the Philippine archipelago and classified adjacent territories such as the Kalayaan Island Ground (KIG) and the Scarborough Shoal as “regimes of islands” whose islands generate their own applicable maritime zones. Petitioners, in their capacities as “citizens, taxpayers or legislators” assail the constitutionality of R.A. 9522 with one of their arguments contending that the law unconstitutionally “converts” internal waters into archipelagic waters, thus subjecting these waters to the right of innocent and sea lanes passage under UNCLOS III, including overflight. Petitioners have contended that these passage rights will violate the Constitution as it shall expose Philippine internal waters to nuclear and maritime pollution hazard. ISSUE: Whether or not R.A. 9522 is unconstitutional for converting internal waters into archipelagic waters HELD: Petition DISMISSED. The Court finds R.A. 9522 constitutional and is consistent with the Philippine’s national interest. Aside from being a vital step in safeguarding the country’s maritime zones, the law also allows an internationally-recognized delimitation of the breadth of the Philippine’s maritime zones and continental shelf. The Court also finds that the conversion of internal waters into archipelagic waters will not risk the Philippines as affirmed in the Article 49 of the UNCLOS III, an archipelagic State has sovereign power that extends to the waters enclosed by the archipelagic baselines, regardless of their depth or distance from the coast. It is further stated that the regime of archipelagic sea lanes passage will not affect the status of its archipelagic waters or the exercise of sovereignty over waters and air space, bed and subsoil and the resources therein.

Furthermore, due to the absence of its own legislation regarding routes within the archipelagic waters to regulate innocent and sea lanes passage, the Philippines has no choice but to comply with the international law norms. The Philippines is subject to UNCLOS III, which grants innocent passage rights over the territorial sea or archipelagic waters, subject to the treaty’s limitations and conditions for their exercise, thus, the right of innocent passage, being a customary international law, is automatically incorporated in the corpus of Philippine law. If the Philippines or any country shall invoke its sovereignty to forbid innocent passage, it shall risk retaliatory measures from the international community. With compliance to UNCLOS III and the enactment of R.A. 9522, the Congress has avoided such conflict. Contrary to the contention of the petitioners, the compliance to UNCLOS III through the R.A. 9522 will not expose Philippine internal waters to nuclear and maritime pollution hazard. As a matter of fact, if the Philippines did not comply with the baselines law, it will find itself devoid of internationally acceptable baselines from where the breadth of its maritime zones and continental shelf is measured and which will produce two-fronted disaster: (1) open invitation to the seafaring powers to freely enter and exploit the resources in the waters and submarine areas around the archipelago and (2) it shall weaken the country’s case in any international dispute over Philippine maritime space. Such disaster was avoided through the R.A. 9522.