In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Philippines’ ratification and the 20th year of the entering into force of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) hosted a Mangrove Forum on “UNCLOS and the Archipelagic Doctrine”on 18 November 2014 at the Bulwagang Apolinario Mabini, Department of Foreign Affairs. Prof. Hasjim Djalal, Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Vice Chairman of the Indonesia Delegation to the Law of the Sea Conference from 1969 to 1982, was the guest speaker.
Prof. Djalal shared the Indonesian experience in pushing for the recognition of the archipelagic doctrine during the UNCLOS negotiations. He emphasized that for large multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic archipelagic countriessuch as Indonesia, sovereignty over the waters between the islands is critical to attaining national unity. He also recounted how the concept of archipelagic state was a product of concerted efforts by Indonesia, the Philippines, Fiji, and Mauritius in asserting the rights and privileges of archipelagic countries.
Prof. Djalal also shared the actions of the Indonesian government to become compliant with the UNCLOS. These include active negotiations with neighbors on maritime delimitation, registering to the UN the geographical coordinates of the country’s archipelagic baselines, and consultation with user states and the International Maritime Organization in designating archipelagic sea lanes. He reiterated the importance of designating sea lanes in monitoring the passage of user states within Indonesia’s archipelagic waters. Without designating sea lanes, user states will exercise the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage through any route they normally use for international navigation, thus, endangering both the safety of shipping and the security of the archipelagic state. Prof. Djalal also emphasized Indonesia’s belief on how “good fences will make good neighbors.”
Professor Raul C. Pangalangan, as discussant, raised the question of an autonomous region claiming its own continental shelf under the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Prof. Djalal, citing the Indonesian experience, mentioned that seven provinces in Indonesia have applied for the status of archipelagic provinces. The local governments are granted with administrative powers, while the central government of Indonesia maintains sovereignty over the waters and the resources.
Another discussant, Ambassador Minerva Jean A. Falcon narrated the constraints faced by the Philippine government in becoming compliant with the UNCLOS. She cited the numerous legal challenges raised against Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Baselines Law, specifically on the issue of its constitutionality. The Supreme Court of the Philippines, however, ruled with finality that RA 9522 is constitutional.
The Mangrove Forum was attended by participants from the DFA and other government agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Security Council; the academe, the diplomatic corps, and the Philippine embassy in Tokyo through video conferencing.