Law Practice

Births on a plane (Philippine laws)

Question: What is the citizenship of a child born on a plane?

Answer: It would depend on a host of factors: where the plane was at the time of birth, whether the law of the state where the plane was at the time of the birth allows citizenship by virtue of being born in the territory (jus soli principle), and whether the flag state of the plane ratified the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Events on a flying plane are deemed to be occurring within the airspace of the sovereign country through which it is flying at the moment, or in international airspace if that be so.

If the birth of a child on a flying plane occurred while in a sovereign country’s airspace, the birth is considered to have occurred within that country’s territory. If that country allows a child born within its territory to claim citizenship (jus soli principle), then that child has the citizenship of that country.

If the country does not follow the jus soli principle or the birth occurred in international airspace, AND the nationality or nationalities of the parents do not allow a claim of citizenship by virtue of the jus sanguinis principle, the child would effectively be stateless. Thus, there is the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which, under its Article 3, requires the flag state of the plane or ship, to grant citizenship to a child born on the plane or ship if the child would have been effectively stateless otherwise. If the state is not a signatory to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (parenthetically, the Philippines is NOT), the child is stateless. (In its Global Trends 2017 report, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees estimated that there are ten million stateless people in the world, only 3.9 million of which had been formally identified by the UNHCR.)

Philippine civil registration procedures in fact address situations when a child is born aboard a vehicle, vessel, or airplane. When the birth occurs aboard a vehicle, vessel, or airplane while in transit, registration of the said birth shall be a joint responsibility of the driver, captain or pilot and the parents, at the case maybe.

The rules on which city or municipality to register the birth are as follows:

1. When a child is born aboard a vehicle, vessel or airplane while in transit within Philippine territory and the exact place of birth could not be ascertained, the birth shall be recorded in the civil register of the city or municipality of the mother’s destination or where the mother habitually resides;

2. When the child is born aboard a vessel or airplane en route to the Philippines, the birth shall be recorded in the civil register of the city or municipality where the mother habitually resides, if she is a resident of the Philippines and if either the father or the mother or both parents are citizens of the Philippines. When the parents are both foreigners but not residents of the Philippines, the birth may be recorded in the civil register of Manila, if they so desire;

3. For delayed registration of events where the city/municipality has been divided or integrated, the registration of birth shall be made in the mother city/municipality, which has jurisdiction over the reported place of occurrence of birth.

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