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Magalona vs. Ermita

FACTS: In March 2009, Republic Act 9522, an act defining the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines was enacted the law is also known as
the Baselines Law. This law was meant to comply with the terms of the third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III),
ratified by the Philippines in February 1984.
Professor Merlin Magallona et al questioned the validity of RA 9522 as they contend, among others, that the law decreased the national territory
of the Philippines hence the law is unconstitutional. Some of their particular arguments are as follows:
a. the law abandoned the demarcation set by the Treaty of Paris and other ancillary treaties this also resulted to the exclusion of our claim
over Sabah;
b. the law, as well as UNCLOS itself, terms the Philippine waters a archipelagic waters which, in international law, opens our waters landward
of the baselines to maritime passage by all vessels (innocent passage) and aircrafts (overflight), undermining Philippine sovereignty and
national security, contravening the countrys nuclear-free policy, and damaging marine resources, in violation of relevant constitutional
c. the classification of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), as well as the Scarborough Shoal (bajo de masinloc), as a regime of islands pursuant
to UNCLOS results in the loss of a large maritime area but also prejudices the livelihood of subsistence fishermen.
ISSUE: Whether or not the contentions of Magallona et al are tenable.
HELD: No. The Supreme Court emphasized that RA 9522, or UNCLOS, itself is not a means to acquire, or lose, territory. The treaty and the
baseline law has nothing to do with the acquisition, enlargement, or diminution of the Philippine territory. What controls when it comes to
acquisition or loss of territory is the international law principle on occupation, accretion, cession and prescription and NOT the execution
of multilateral treaties on the regulations of sea-use rights or enacting statutes to comply with the treatys terms to delimit maritime zones and
continental shelves.
The law did not decrease the demarcation of our territory. In fact it increased it. Under the old law amended by RA 9522 (RA 3046), we adhered
with the rectangular lines enclosing the Philippines. The area that it covered was 440,994 square nautical miles (sq. na. mi.). But under 9522,
and with the inclusion of the exclusive economic zone, the extent of our maritime are increased to 586,210 sq. na. mi. (See image below for
If any, the baselines law is a notice to the international community of the scope of the maritime space and submarine areas within which States
parties exercise treaty-based rights.
The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were scheduled to sign a Memorandum
of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). This Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli
Agreement of Peace of 2001 is a codification of consensus points reached between GRP and MILF Peace Panel and of the aspiration of the
MILF to have a Bangasmoro Homeland
According to the stipulations in the MOA-AD, Ownership of the Bangasmoro Homeland is vested to the Bangasmoro people. MOA-AD
describes the Bangasmoro people as the first nation with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity
and commerce with foreign nations. The Bangasmoro Juridical Entity (BJE) is granted by the MOA-AD the authority and jurisdiction over the
Ancestral Domain andAncestral Lands of the Bangasmoro. It was also stipulated that BJE shall have jurisdiction over all natural resources
within its internal waters.
ISSUE: Whether MOA-AD is Unconstitutional
Yes. The MOA-AD is unconstitutional because it cannot be reconciled with the present constitution. Not only its specific provisions but the very
concept underlying them. The associative relationship between the GRP and the BJE is unconstitutional because the concept presupposes that
the associated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.

the MOA-AD, contains many provisions which are consistent with the international legal concept of association, specifically the following: the
BJEs capacity to enter into economic and trade relations with foreign countries, the commitment of the Central Government to ensure the BJEs
participation in meetings and events in the ASEAN and the specialized UN agencies, and the continuing responsibility of the Central
Government over external defense. Moreover, the BJEs right to participate in Philippine official missions bearing on negotiation of border
agreements, environmental protection, and sharing of revenues pertaining to the bodies of water adjacent to or between the islands forming
part of the ancestral domain, resembles the right of the governments of FSM and the Marshall Islands to be consulted by the U.S. government
on any foreign affairs matter affecting them.
These provisions of the MOA indicate, among other things, that the Parties aimed to vest in the BJE the status of an associated state or,
at any rate, a status closely approximating it.
The concept of association is not recognized under the present Constitution. No province, city, or municipality, not even the ARMM, is
recognized under our laws as having an associative relationship with the national government. Indeed, the concept implies powers that go
beyond anything ever granted by the Constitution to any local or regional government. It also implies the recognition of the associated entity as
a state. The Constitution, however, does not contemplate any state in this jurisdiction other than the Philippine State, much less does it provide
for a transitory status that aims to prepare any part of Philippine territory for independence
Anent their particular contentions:
a. The law did not abandon the Sabah claim. This is evident on the provision of Section 2 of RA 9522:
Section 2. The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippine Archipelago as provided in this Act is without prejudice to the
delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the
Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.
b. UNCLOS may term our waters as archipelagic waters and that we may term it as our internal waters, but the bottom line is that our
country exercises sovereignty over these waters and UNCLOS itself recognizes that. However, due to our observance of international law, we
allow the exercise of others of their right of innocent passage. No modern State can validly invoke its sovereignty to absolutely forbid innocent
passage that is exercised in accordance with customary international law without risking retaliatory measures from the international community.
c. The classification of the KIG (or the Spratlys), as well as the Scarborough Shoal, as a regime of islands did not diminish our maritime area.
Under UNCLOS and under the baselines law, since they are regimes of islands, theygenerate their own maritime zones in short, they are not
to be enclosed within the baselines of the main archipelago (which is the Philippine Island group). This is because if we do that, then we will be
enclosing a larger area which would already depart from the provisions of UNCLOS that the demarcation should follow the natural contour of
the archipelago.
Nevertheless, we still continue to lay claim over the KIG and the Scarborough Shoal through effective occupation.
Under UNCLOS and the baselines law, we have three levels of maritime zones where we exercise treaty-based rights:
a. territorial waters 12 nautical miles from the baselines; where we exercise sovereignty
b. contiguous zone 24 nautical miles from the baselines; jurisdiction where we can enforce customs, fiscal, immigration, and sanitation
laws (CFIS).
c. exclusive economic zone 200 nautical miles from the baselines; where we have the right to exploit the living and non-living resources in the
exclusive economic zone
Note: a fourth zone may be added which is the continental shelf this is covered by Article 77 of the UNCLOS.