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ALTARES, PHILIP WILLIAM C.

DECEMBER 10,2014

PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW

ATTY. ELIZA YAMAMOTO

ISLANDS IN DISPUTE

Out

of

its

economic

and

strategic

motivations,

the

French

government made formal claims to the Spratlys in the early 1930s.


On July 25 1933 the French Foreign Ministry announced the
occupation of the nine islets of the Spratlys and asserted French
sovereignty over them for the first time. The French action brought
immediate protests from China.At that time, the Philippines was a
colony of America. Some Filipino congressman said the nine islands
should belong to the Philippines according to the Treaty of Paris.
However his suggestion was ignored by Washington since the
Spratly Islands obviously were not within the Philippine boundary as
stated by the Treaty Limits.
During the Second World War, Japan occupied both the Paracels
(Paracel Islands) and Spratlys in 1939 shortly after they controlled
Hainan Island. The Japanese used Itu Aba Island (Taiping Dao) as a
submarine base and a springboard for its invasion of the Philippines.
At the end of the Pacific War in 1945, the Japanese forces on the
South China Sea surrendered to the representatives of China. The
newly established Philippine government Foreign Minister Qurino
advocated on 23 July 1946 that the new Southern Islands (a term
used by the Japanese for all the islands in the South China Sea)
should be given to his country. This was the first indication of the
interests in the Spratly Islands from the Philippines government.
In April 1949 , the Philippines sent its navy to explore the Spratlys.
An article published in Manila Bulletin on May 15 1950 said that the

Philippine government should occupy the Spratly Islands together


with the United States because it was closer to Palawan compared
with China and Vietnam. On May 17, the Philippine President Quirino
said that if the Chinese Kuomingtang (Nationalist Party) troops really
occupied the Spratlys, then Philippine didn't need to occupy them.
However, if the islands fell into the communist enemy's hand, the
Philippine security is threatened. So he created this theory that the
Spratlys should belong to the nearest country according to
international law. and the Philippines is the nearest.
In 1956 Tomas Cloma together with his brothers and 40 crew
explored the Spratlys and claimed to have "discovered" and
occupied 53 islands and reefs of the Spratlys. They proclaimed
"formal ownership" over them and renamed these islands and reefs
the Kalayaan (Freedomland) Island Group.
The Philippines claims that the West Philippine Sea is part of its EEZ
under international law.
In

April

1972,

the

Philippines

government

incorporated

the

"Kalayaan" group into Palawan Province as a municipality.


In February 1974, the Philippines government stated that the
Philippines forces had occupied five islets of the Spratlys. The
Philippines government justified its occupation of the Spratly Islands
as "the strategic importance of the Kalayaan area to the Philippine
security".
By 1978 the Philippines had occupied two more islands, and later
the Philippines further occupied Siling Jiao (Commodore Reef), in
1980 they occupied Liyue Tan (Reed Bank). On June 11, 1978,
Filipino president Marcos signed a Presidential Decree 1596 which
claimed the Kalayaan group. The 1978 decree omitted Spratly Island
and include Amboyna Cay which was not claimed by Cloma. It also

said that "some countries claimed some parts of this area but they
had given up and thus the claims are not valid anymore..."
On July 17, 1978,

a Presidential Decree 1599 was issued,

proclaiming that the Kalayaan Group was within Philippine EEZ


(Exclusive Economic Zone).
Among the countries who claim the disputed group of island, the
most aggresive one is China. China asserts its claim by presenting
its nine-dotted line. The nine dotted line takes in about 90 per cent
of the 3.5 million square kilometer West Philippine Sea on Chinese
Maps. This vague boundary was first officially published on a map by
Chinas Nationalist government in 1947 and has been included in
subsequent maps issued under Communist rule.
To rebut Manilas claim over the disputed islands, Beijing presented
history dated to Song dysnasty. Beijing said the records show
Chinese sailors discovered Huangyan Island 2,000 years ago and
cite extensive records of visits, mapping expeditions and habitation
of the shoal from the Song Dysnasty (960-1279 A.D.) right through
the modern period.

To back up these arguments, China has also

deployed some of its most advanced paramilitary patrol vessels to


the shoal in a calibrated show of stength.

However, Senior Associate Justice Carpio. A maritime law expert,


debunks Chinas claim and even tagged it as a Historical lie. To
contradict the historical claim of China, he used history as evidence.
China has been using a historical lie to insist on its claim over the
whole South China Sea, and an ancient Chinese maps never claimed
the area, including the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough
Shoal, as Chinese territory, according to senior Supreme Court
justice.

Carpio presented several ancient Chinese maps, some dating as far


as back as 960 A.D., which showed that Chinas territory reached
only as far as south as Hainan Island. The existence of of ancient
Chinese maps disproved the Chinas so-called historical claims
based on the nine-dash line covering maritime features and areas
the Philippines considers its own.
According to him, since the start of the song dynasty in 960 AD until
the end of Qing dynasty in 1912, a period of 952 years or almost a
millenium, the southernmost territory of China has always been
Hainan Island based on all official and unofficial maps of China.
Even after the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, the
Chines governments constitution from 1912-1946 consistently
declaresd that the territory of China remained the same as the Qing
Empire. Even in September 1932 Note Verbale to France, wherein
Beijing protested the French Occupation of the Paracel Islands,
China has been telling the world that its southernmost border was
Hainan Island.
Recently, the US State Departments Bureau of Oceans and
International Environment and Scientific Affairs (OES) said that
Chinas claim on nearly the entirety of the South China Sea-an area
within a so-called nine-dash line-described by China-does not
accord with the international law of the sea.
The 24-page study stated that China has failed to make any
cognizable historic claim to the area. There appears to be no
Chinese law, declaration, proclamatio, or other official statement
describing and putting the international community on notoce of a
historical claim to the waters within the dashed line, the US paper
said. The various maps published by China also lack the precision,
clarity and consistency that could convey the nature and scope of a
maritime claim.

The paper also noted that the dashed line cannot be used to
represent a limit on Chinas territorial sea because these dashes go
way beyond 12-nautical-mile maximum limit set by UNCLOS
The Philippines submitted the dispute to the UNCLOS for peaceful
settlement of the case. China has repeatedly refused to participate
in the proceedings, insisting instead on bilateral talks to resolve the
territorial dispute. The Philippines is pursuing a principle of foreign
policy that is based on international law. The Philippines is also
advocating a peace resolution of the territorial dispute without the
use of force.
Under UNCLOS-which were accepted by China as a signatory to the
convention-favor soverign rights of

a coastal state over historic

claims. The conventions provisions prevail over any assertion of


historic claims made in those areas
There is a fundamental difference between entitlements and
claims under international law. Claims are just mere claims that may
not necessarily generate rights unless duly proven in an appropriate
forum.
Maritime

entitlements,

as

expressed

in

the

United

Nations

Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), include a countrys


Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and which are rights that lawfully
demand respect from all state parties