What is the Archipelagic Doctrine?


The fact that for Archipelagic States, their archipelagic waters are subject to both the right of innocent passage and sea lanes passage does not place them in lesser footing vis-a-vis continental coastal states which are subject, in their territorial sea, to the right of innocent passage and the right to transit passage through international straits. The imposition of these passage rights through archipelagic waters under UNCLOS III was a concession by archipelagic states, in exchange for their right to claim all the waters landward of their baselines, regardless of their depth, or distance from coast, as archipelagic waters subject to national sovereignty. More importantly, the recognition of archipelagic state's archipelago and waters enclosed by their baselines as one cohesive entity prevents the treatment of their islands as separate islands under UNCLOS III. Separate islands generate their own maritime zones, placing the waters between the islands separated by more than 24 nautical miles beyond the state's territorial sovereignty subjecting these waters to the rights of other states under UNCLOS III.


The fact of sovereignty, however, does not preclude the operation of the municipal and international law norms subjecting the territorial sea or archipelagic waters to necessary, if not marginal, burdens in the interest of maintaining unimpeded, expeditious international navigation, consistent with the international law principle of freedom of navigation. Thus, domestically, the political branches of the Philippine government, in the competent discharge of their constitutional powers, may pass legislation designating routes within the archipelagic waters to regulate innocent and sea lanes passage (Magallona, et. al. vs. Ermita, et. al., GR No. 187167, august 16, 2011).