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Monday, July 15, 2024

Understanding our alleged claim

“The Treaty of Paris has been signed and long been consummated. We can no longer refuse the authenticity of that agreement”

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio talks as if he is not a lawyer.

First, he should know that the only verifiable and acceptable document with respect to our national boundary in the South China Sea is the Treaty of Paris, signed, no less by the US, on December 10, 1898.

There is no way he can deny that because the US is a party to that agreement, and for which it paid $20 million for the value of the whole archipelago.

Second, the US is giving so many reasons for the Philippines to refute the boundaries.

Former Justice Carpio seems to concur with what the US is saying, which is for us to reject the treaty, insisting that the area is rich in natural resources, has enormous mineral deposit, contains huge economic potential, and the SCS is invaluable as our strategic waterway.

Even if the SCS has a total value a thousand times over, it is not relevant.

The Treaty of Paris has been signed and long been consummated. We can no longer refuse the authenticity of that agreement.

Third, the US is a party to the Treaty, but wants the Philippines to reject it. The treaty signed with Spain is valid and binding.

Fourth, the US is urging the country to reject the treaty because the US sees the value and importance for its self-interest.

Again, the Philippines is only a successor-in-interest but is obligated to abide by the terms and conditions of the agreement like observing the boundaries demarcated in the treaty.

Fifth, as a treaty between the US and Spain, it is ridiculous for us to protest against an agreement to which the Philippines is not a signatory.

Countries adjacent to the South China Sea (SCS) already acquired rights as sovereign states and as members of the UN.

We can no longer alter the boundaries signed by the US and Spain. We are obligated to the terms and conditions of a treaty, following an old doctrine in international law under the Latin formula pacta sunt servanda, meaning agreements must be kept.

Former Justice Carpio seems to concur with what the US is saying, which is for us to reject the treaty, insisting that the area is rich in natural resources, has enormous mineral deposit,

contains huge economic potential, and that the SCS is invaluable as our strategic waterway.

Sixth, our membership in the UNCLOS did not alter, in any way, the boundaries under the Treaty of Paris.

We only ratified our adherence to UNCLOS in 1982 because that new law of the seas extended to us a 200-mile limit as our exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Other group of islands near Kalayaan or Spratly was declared part of our territorial waters by decree, it being a part of our continental shelf that stretched from the Palawan archipelago under PD 1596.

PD 1597 stretched our EEZ to include those waters known as Malampaya, Recto and Reed Bank to which PNOC had laid its claim to exploit minerals, gas. It also granted service contracts to private corporations engaged in the exploration and exploitation of fuel energy and gas.

An incident cropped up when the Philippines insisted that Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal is part of our territorial waters, it being considered our historical fishing ground.

China rejected our claim. For a while, there was a standoff between the two navies. China insisted that Panatag is outside of our 200-mile EEZ or 321 kms from Mariveles, Bataan.

Besides, China insisted that the whole of SCS historically belongs to them.

Seventh, Carpio cannot present the so-called Murillo-Velarde map which allegedly indicates that the SCS was once a part of Philippine Territory.

It is not about its authenticity but the validity of the map as evidence. What if China presents a map showing the whole of Latin-America as part of the Spanish empire? Would Spain not appear ridiculous?

Eighth, after the defeat of Japan in World War II, the US ordered it to return all islands it occupied in the SCS – specifically to China.

Question, why did the US not insist in taking them as conquered territories, or giving them to the Philippines or to any of the countries having claims in the SCS?

The San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1950 was specific that the Treaty of Paris signed in 1898 was binding to all the countries in Asia; that all the islands and shoals in the SCS belong to

China, and the US recognizes the rightful ownership of China over Paracel, Pratas and Spratly islands which today are being claimed by the Philippines.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have yet to achieve their independence or manifest their interest in some of the islands like the claim of Vietnam over the Paracel islands and Taiwan over the disputed islands allegedly occupied by the Philippines in the SCS.

The Treaty of San Francisco was a meeting called by the US asking Japan to return all the islands it occupied in the Pacific during World War II to China.

It specifically demanded that Japan return the Spratly group of islands, or locally called by us as the Kalayaan Group of islands.

The San Francisco treaty, in fact, is the first written document drafted by the US acknowledging that the islands, including the Spratly islands, belong to China.

The Philippines’ act, as a signatory to that Peace Treaty in 1950, is a renunciation of whatever right we have in the SCS.

The Philippine delegation was represented by luminaries like Carlos Romulo, Diosdado Macapagal, Vicente Cinco, Manuel Elizalde, to name a few.

Carpio never mentioned the San Francisco Treaty because our presence and signature in that agreement means the forfeiture of all our rights and claims in the SCS.

There was however a revision in the treaty of San Francisco by the signing of the Peace Agreement with Taiwan in 1952 because the runaway province of China insisted that the islands surrendered by Japan be given to Taiwan.

Our relations with China have always been characterized as friendly and cordial. Except for one

incident when the Noynoy Aquino’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario ordered the arrest of Chinese fisherman in the contested waters in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

We sent our coast guard to arrest the Chinese fishermen inside the somewhat semi-circle shoal.

Fortunately, the Chinese navy hurriedly blocked the entrance for our naval ship. There was a long standoff because China insisted in the release of their fishermen. The standoff took almost three months.

Nonetheless, we agreed but then the Philippines lodged a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.

While the PCA rejected China’s Nine dash-line for reason that it refuses to submit to its jurisdiction or honor the decision, neither can we enforce the PCA decision in our favor.

As party complainant who submitted to the PCA’s jurisdiction, the evidence we presented was the only item taken for consideration.

We then proceeded to claim we won based on the evidence we presented.

The coming of the Duterte administration saw the warming in the relations of the two countries.

Trade has once again developed to unprecedented level.

Economic development and assistance, particularly the medical assistance and vaccines given by China to counter the pandemic.

This goes to show the unique diplomacy which China has adopted to bring about closer relations and understanding despite our seeming hostile stance during the previous administration.

We are now holding fast to solidify our friendship and understanding with China.

I hope the incoming BBM administration will exert its effort to remove the

remaining obstacle in Philippine-China relations.

(rpkapunan@gmail.com )

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