Contrary to an article in the Inquirer, I have never claimed that Felipe reef is not ours.
We reiterate that the Philippines has claim – and has never abandoned our claim — over Julian Felipe Reef by virtue of a Presidential Decree issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos saying it is part of the Kalayaan Group of Islands.
The basis of our claim is that while Julian Felipe Reef is indeed within our 200 nautical miles of EEZ, it nonetheless forms part of the territorial sea generated by two High Tide Elevations (HTEs) currently occupied by China (Mckennan) and Vietnam (Sin Cowe). Per the 2016 SCS Arbitral Award, these HTEs generate a Territorial Sea, which is prior to an EEZ under the UNCLOS.
Felipe Reef, together with the two HTEs that generated the territorial sea, has never been in actual physical possession of the Philippines, albeit made part of the province of Palawan through PD 1596 (1978).
At the very least, Julian Felipe Reef should be delimited under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) given the overlaps of maritime zones.
While Julian Felipe Reef is not within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), because it forms part of the territorial sea of Mckennan which we claim in accordance with the Marcos Presidential Decree, it is in our country’s interest to continuously pursue our claim through diplomacy or in the future, by submitting it to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.