Can You Accidentally Become A Filipino?

What if you were born on an aircraft that is a flag carrier of the Philippines?

Numerous babies around the world are sometimes born into nationalities originally unintended, like when he or she is delivered on an airplane as it is flies over the ocean. A similar dilemma occurs for babies born on cruise ships sailing in the high seas.

If you were born on an airplane or a ship on international waters, what is your nationality? To be more specific, what if your mom is an American traveling on a Philippine aircraft in Indonesian airspace, and gives birth to you while on the flight, are you American, Filipino, or Indonesian?

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Some nations grant citizenship to babies born in-flight within their airspace. Some don't. In the U.S., citizenship is based on the principle of jus soli (right of the soil), which means American citizens are those born in the United States. Indonesia uses the principle of jus soli and jus sanguinis (right of blood), which is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents. The Philippines uses the principle of jus sanguinis.

The answer to the airplane puzzle? The baby is American. Indonesian citizenship law states that a child born in Indonesian territory whose parents’ citizenship status is unknown is Indonesian. The mother is American, therefore, the prevailing law states that the child is American.

But what if the plane, which is a Philippine flag carrier, was in international airspace, and the American mother gave birth?


All aircraft around the world have nationalities based on the country where they are registered. For a Philippine flight in international airspace, the laws that apply are laws of the Philippines, but if a child is born on the flight, the child will bear the nationality of the country where the aircraft is facing.

For example, if the American mother gave birth on a Philippine-flagged aircraft facing Saudi Arabia, then the child is Saudi.

It’s pretty difficult to become “accidentally” Filipino because our citizenship laws are quite specific on the circumstances of who gets to be Filipino, no matter where you are born in the world. This is an advantage of relying on the principle of jus sanguinis, it simplifies things.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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