POSTSCRIPT / March 2, 2008 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Congress must not lose time passing EEZ law

BEWARE THE IDES: Indeed, the imperious Gloria Arroyo has to beware the Ides of March, which in the Roman calendar is the 15th. Idus Martiae is the date in 44 BCE when Julius Caesar was assassinated by senators styling themselves as liberators.

(The reference here to assassination is merely a literary device and the mention of senators coincidental.)

The parallel aside, Ms Arroyo really has to be wary this month, especially in the first three weeks before the semestral break sets students free from their Manila campuses to go home to the provinces.

From where I watch, I see a developing dark cloud that, upon close scrutiny, shows masses of students marching in the streets.

As I see it, the biggest threat to the President’s continued stay in the Palace is not the political opposition, religious groups, or the Makati Business Club — but the students taking to the streets to demand her resignation.

But if the President can survive the next three weeks before the school vacation, she would have a breathing spell within which to consolidate.

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JAMBY WATCH: It is fascinating seeing senators Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal seated beside each other during the hearings into the aborted National Broadband Network project. One is not what the other is.

As for Madrigal, she is one of a kind. Despite her three years in the chamber, she still has to acquire the refined demeanor of a senator of the land. My barber offers, for free, to scrape her tongue clean of gutter language.

Sen. Miriam Santiago is of a different species. Her tongue may be as sharp as a razor, drawing blood with each surgical slice, but her cutting language is tolerable, or even desirable, in a deliberative body like the Senate.

But such rough kanto language as what Madrigal habitually spouts can be disgusting even to those distracted by her jewelry and expensive getup.

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NAKORYENTE: So that when Madrigal was slapped down after she went out on a limb and declared that the “FG” she spotted on an NBN document stood for “First Gentleman,” nobody commiserated with her.

Flashing to the TV cameras the piece of paper with the marginal note about “FG,” she apparently wanted the public to believe that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo may have dipped his fingers into the transaction.

But the National Economic and Development Authority butted in to say that the initials were actually FGI, which were those of an official of the agency who had to be given a copy.

Such faux pas happens when one forces herself to see only what she wants to see through colored signature glasses.

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UNCLOS DEADLINE: If lawmakers do not stop wasting valuable time in inquisitions that have no direct bearing on legislation, the country may lose by default the fishery and mineral riches in our archipelagic waters.

We have only until May next year to pass the needed laws and file a claim to our Extended Continental Shelf areas as provided under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) governing archipelagic baselines.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap has raised the alarm over the possible forfeiture of our claim to our extended continental shelf in the absence of a law legitimizing our stake on the extensive archipelagic baselines.

The UNCLOS requires affected states to submit their supporting scientific and technical data, maps and other pertinent documents within 10 years from May 13, 1999.

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VAST RICHES: Congress has to pass a law redefining our archipelagic baselines to establish the standard 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and affirm the country’s territorial claim over such areas as the Kalayaan Island Group and Benham Rise.

Aside from the rich fishery resources in the surrounding waters, Yap said these continental shelf areas have vast mineral resources like nickel and gold along with sedentary species that are used as raw materials for pharmaceutical products.

If the country misses the deadline, these areas will either become part of the international seabed area — the so-called Common Heritage of Mankind — or be awarded to neighboring states that are contesting jurisdiction over them.

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FOOD SUMMIT: The urgency was raised during a recent consultation with farm stakeholders in Southern Luzon and Bicol in preparation for the “food summit” set April 4 to fine tune the rural-development thrusts of the Arroyo administration.

Director Malcolm Sarmiento of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said the National Tuna Industry Council raised the issue during the session attended by over 500 agriculture and fisheries stakeholders.

The Philippines signed the UNCLOS after its adoption in 1982 and its ratification two years later. It establishes a comprehensive framework for the use of ocean space and the setting of the maritime boundaries of coastal states.

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FORMALIZE STAKE: Each state is authorized to explore and use resources of its continental shelf and adjacent seabed up to 200 miles from its shore.

Where the margins exceed 200 miles from the baselines, these states can assert their respective claims to these ECS areas, Sarmiento said.

But the Philippines has to file a formal stake over the ECS areas. Sarmiento said existing baselines as defined by RA 3046 and amended by RA 5446 must be revised because they are not in accordance with the parameters set by the UNCLOS.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 2, 2008)

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