PH has claimed Scarborough for centuries

by Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2012 09:28 PM | Updated as of Apr 20 2012 02:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) released Wednesday a paper entitled "Philippine Position on Bajo de Masinloc and the Waters Within its Vicinity" showing that the Philippines has claimed Scarborough Shoal for centuries.

The political section of the Chinese embassy in Manila relased its own position a day earlier.

"We were really going out with this paper even before the Chinese embassy released its position," DFA Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said before reading the 6-page paper before the press.

Hernandez called Scarborough Shoal (or Panatag shoal or Huangyan island as the Chinese call it)  "Bajo de Masinloc," which is translated in English as "under Masinloc."

He explained that the area is an integral part of Philippine territory, specifically under the municipality of Masinloc in the province of Zambales.

The shoal is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and is within the country's 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone and the Philippine continental shelf.

"The name Bajo de Masinloc was a name given to the shoal by Spanish colonizers. In 1792, another map drawn by the Alejandro Malaspina expedition and published in 1808 in Madrid, Spain, also showed Bajo de Masinloc as part of Philippine territory. These maps showed the route of the Malaspina expedition to and around the shoal. It was reproduced in the Atlas of the 1939 Philippine Census," Hernandez said.

In the paper, the DFA said Philippine flags have been erected on some of the islets of the shoal, including a flag raised on an 8.3-meter high flag pole in 1965 and another Philippine flag raised by Congressman Roque Ablan and Jose Yap in 1997.

In 1965, the Philippines also built and operated a small lighthouse in one of the islets in the shoal.

In 1992, the Philippine Navy rehabilitated the lighthouse and reported it to the International Maritime Organization for publication in the List of Lights. The lighthouse is currently not operational.

Bajo de Masinloc was also used as an shooting range by Philippine and US Naval Forces stationed in Subic Bay in Zambales.

The DFA maintains that China's assertion based on historical claims must be substantiated by a clear historic title.

The department said under public international law, historical claims are not historical titles. 

A claim by itself, including historical claim, cannot be a basis for acquiring a territory, it added.

The DFA said under international law, the modes of acquiring a territory are discovery, effective occupation, prescription, cession, and accretion.

Hernandez said a vessel from Philippine Coast Guard is still on standby in Bajo de Masinloc, along with the M/Y Saranggani that is on an archaeological mission for the Philippine Museum.

Two vessels from China are also in the area.

The DFA said it will continue to pursue diplomatic channels in resolving the dispute.

"This is ours and we will not leave just because somebody told us to leave," Hernandez said.