ISSUE: Whether or not immunity from suits can be invoked within territorial waters.
FACTS: The USS Guardian is an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship of the US Navy. In December 2012, the US Embassy in the Philippines requested diplomatic clearance for the said vessel “to enter and exit the territorial waters of the Philippines and to arrive at the port of Subic Bay for the purpose of routine ship replenishment, maintenance, and crew liberty.” On January 6, 2013, the ship left Sasebo, Japan for Subic Bay, arriving on January 13, 2013 after a brief stop for fuel in Okinawa, Japan. On January 15, 2013, the USS Guardian departed Subic Bay for its next port of call in Makassar, Indonesia. On January 17, 2013 at 2:20 a.m. while transiting the Sulu Sea, the ship ran aground on the northwest side of South Shoal of the Tubbataha Reefs, about 80 miles eastsoutheast of Palawan. No cine was injured in the incident, and there have been no reports of leaking fuel or oil.
DECISION: Yes. Immunity from suits can be invoked within territorial waters, except from the exceptions set by UNCLOS.
RATIO DECIDENDI: Warships enjoy sovereign immunity from suit as extensions of their flag State, Art. 31 of the UNCLOS creates an exception to this rule in cases where they fail to comply with the rules and regulations of the coastal State regarding passage through the latter’s internal waters and the territorial sea.