IT wasn’t just Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) that President Aquino 3rd and his minions lost in 2012 because of their bungling in their quarrel with China. Much worse than that: we lost our entire Spratly Island Group. Marcos carved that territory out of the South China Sea through his Presidential Decree 1596 in 1978.
The arbitration suit that the Yellow regime filed in 2013 and claimed to have won ruled that the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) is illegal and without basis under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
The Yellows’ ineptitude would be really hilarious if not for the seriousness of what they lost – Philippine territory – because of their stupidity. The US fooled Aquino and his Foreign Affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, in 2012 that the Chinese would withdraw from Scarborough. So, they ordered our vessels out of the shoal.
So, Aquino abandoned that Philippine territory, turning it over to the Chinese who were wondering where on earth did the two had gotten the very irrational idea that they entered into an agreement brokered by their arch rival, the US, especially as it’s a doctrine etched in stone in China that all its disputes be resolved bilaterally.
After that episode, the Americans then fooled the two – also prodded by former magistrate Antonio Caprio – to file an arbitration suit against China. They claimed the suit would enable the country to recover Scarborough. The arbitration didn’t, and even declared – the first declaration by an international body – that there is a territorial dispute over the shoal. There was a worse consequence this time around: we lost the KIG.
I couldn’t believe my eyes reading Carpio’s admission:
“The Philippine lawyers [read: the American lawyers hired by the Aquino regime] on their own raised the issue that straight baselines could not be drawn around the Spratlys [as Marcos did]. In response, the arbitral tribunal stated in its final award of July 12, 2016: ‘In the Tribunal’s view, any application of straight baselines to the Spratly Islands in this fashion would be contrary to the Convention. Article 7 provides for the application of straight baselines only “[i]n localities where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity.”
But Marcos’ 1978 decree did not define the boundaries he created to enclose KIG as “baselines,” a concept invented only by the Unclos (which took effect only in 1994). These lines link an archipelago’s outermost islands, from which emanates its territorial sea (12 nautical miles from these lines) and then its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Instead, Marcos specified the precise geographic coordinates (e.g., “latitude 7°40′ North and longitude 116°00′ East”) of points in the Spratlys from which lines are drawn to form a polygon. Everything inside this polygon, all its islands, reefs, and shoals, his decree declared, “shall belong and be subject to the sovereignty of the Philippines.”
Marcos’ definition of the KIG was of similar genre as the Philippine territory as defined by the US when it took over the Philippines from Spain in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, also a polygon defined by geographic coordinates, surrounding the archipelago.
Marcos’ decree did not declare sovereignty over each individual feature there, e.g., Pag-asa Island, etc., but on the entire area inside the polygon. China and Vietnam’s claims of sovereignty over the Spratlys were similar but cruder, as they also claimed that the Spratly archipelago was theirs without declaring each feature there as theirs.
Did China and Vietnam file a protest against Marcos’ setting up of the KIG? Of course, since they had claimed even before the war that the area Marcos grabbed was already theirs, although defined in cruder terms solely as “archipelago” (Nansha to the Chinese, Truong Sa to the Vietnamese) without precise borders.
Is the KIG illegal, i.e., not compliant with international law? Before the arbitration suit, the answer would have been “Who knows?”
While China and Vietnam protested the 1978 Philippine claim since they also claim the same area, and a US State Department study claimed it did not comply with Unclos provisions, nobody filed a suit in an international court or body that the KIG was illegal. In fact, no international court or body has the right to rule on the legality or illegality of a nation’s sovereign claim.
So, officially the Philippines’ claim of the KIG as its sovereign territory had as much international-law standing, as well, our territory as defined by the Treaty of Paris, officially protested by the US and several countries but without any consequence.
Enter Carpio, said to be the genius behind the arbitration suit, which asked the court to rule as illegal his own country’s territory because, as he wrote in his column “the Philippine lawyers were worried that China would also declare straight baselines around the Spratlys.”
This claim would be the height of stupidity: China has not declared (so far) baselines around the Spratlys and the court obviously can’t rule on a hypothetical case. But the US lawyers argued that the lines defining the KIG were baselines, and therefore the court ruled on it – they were illegal, as they did not comply with Unclos provisions, which lists in detail the requirements for such baselines, such as the minimum ratio for land to waters inside the area defined by the baselines.
And guess what? Aquino’s government committed to comply with the arbitration panel’s ruling. China didn’t participate in it and so claims it is not bound to. It was an arbitration between two parties. Only the Philippines is bound to comply with it.
Carpio explained in his column: “The interpretation [because of the arbitration award] of the polygonal lines has changed, from a claim to all the geologic features, waters, and resources found within the polygonal lines, to a claim to only all the high-tide features and their territorial seas found within the polygonal lines.”
Unless his column was written by a ghost writer which he didn’t bother to read, I am astonished at how Carpio could write so nonchalantly over such a colossal loss of Philippine territory.
The KIG created by Marcos had an area of 170,000 square kilometers, nearly double the area of Luzon island. With the KIG declared illegal by the arbitral panel at the request of Aquino’s lawyers, our Kalayaan territory, consisting of tiny islands and their 12-nautical mile territorial seas, has been reduced to an area less than one percent of that, or 8,000 sq km.
Because of the Aquino regime’s arbitration suit against China, we lost an area half that of the Philippines. While that is mostly water, it represents such a huge territory that could have been exploited for its natural resources. To the Yellows: Are you sure you want to enforce the arbitration award?
Would you believe, because the exact definition of our national territory has been messed up by the arbitration award dissolving the KIG and Republic Act 9522 of 2009 which defined the country’s baselines, the Philippines is now the only country in the world unable to produce an official, publicly available map showing its territory (whether the 1898 Treaty of Paris definition no longer holds), its territorial sea, its exclusive economic zone, as well as the status of the KIG?
I invoked last February President Duterte’s executive order on freedom of information, and I asked the National Mapping and Resource Information (Namria, the agency authorized to produce our official maps) to provide me with such an official map of the Philippines.
Its reply: “The information requested is actually related to national security, defense or international relations, and are exceptions to the right of access to information.”
In short, the official map of the Philippines is secret, not available to the public. Or is Namria so shocked that we lost the KIG, and wants Congress to first declare it so?
Given how much territory we would be losing, we’d be better off declaring the arbitration null and void, as it was the previous Yellow regime which filed it, without even consulting nor having the concurrence of Congress.
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Book orders: www.rigobertotiglao.com/debunked