“EEZ is different from SEZ.”
To resolve the overlapping claims over some of the islands in the South China Sea (SCS), particularly the boundaries that separate China and the Philippines, it is suggested that the two countries re-examine the records prior to the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1896 by the representatives of Spain and the United States.
This is important because many of the islands, islets, shoals and reefs are located close to the Philippines.
First, the Treaty of Paris is the only document represented today by the US and Spain.
Second, even if China existed as a state, Spain and the US did not invite China to sign the Treaty though the demarcation affected the waters in the SCS.
Third, many of the states that have claims in the SCS have yet to achieve independence. Philippines’ claim in the SCS is by virtue of a successor-in-interest of the US, being a former colony that was granted independence in 1946.
Fourth, countries littoral to the SCS base their claim on historic rights like the claim of Vietnam over the Paracel islands. The same can be said of the return of the Spratly Islands to China under the Peace Treaty in San Francisco.
Fifth, the claim by Malaysia in the SCS is by virtue of the formation of the Malaysian federation, which included North Borneo and Sarawak. Malaysia’s access to the SCS came after the Federation of Malaysia was created on September 16, 1963.
Sixth, the UN Convention on the law of the Seas (UNCLOS) came to force in 1994. China ratified the Convention in May 1996. The US, to this day, has refused to ratify the UNCLOS despite the fact that the territorial sea has modified the concept of exclusive economic zone particularly on the proprietary and use of minerals within the county’s 200-mile EEZ.
The concept of exclusive economic zone should not be confused with special economic zone. An exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as prescribed by the 1982 UNCLOS, is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the state in question. It is also referred to as a maritime continental margin and may include the continental shelf.
The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200-nautical mile limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters.
On 12 July 2016, the tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) concluded that Second Thomas Shoal is, in its natural condition, exposed at low tide and submerged at high tide and, accordingly low-tide elevations that do not generate an entitlement to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.
Second Thomas Shoal is claimed by the Philippines and China. The Philippine Navy maintains a presence of less than a dozen navy personnel on the 100 m (330 ft) long Second World War US-built Philippine Navy landing craft BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), which was deliberately run aground at the shoal in 1999 in response to the Chinese reclamation of Mischief Reef. The Philippines claims that the shoal is part of its continental shelf, while parts of the Spratly group of islands, where Second Thomas Shoal lies, are claimed by China, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. In 2014, the Chinese government asked the Philippines to remove the grounded ship.
In November 2021, Chinese Coast Guard vessels used water cannons and blocked two Philippine supply boats, preventing the delivery of essential supplies to the Philippine marine forces stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is right that the “Ayungin Shoal is ours, it being within exclusive economic zone, about 184 KM from our baseline.”
China’s claim of the nine-dash line was first published by the Republic of China government (Taiwan) on 1 December 1947. Two of the dashes in the Gulf of Tonkin were later removed at the behest of Premier Zhou Enlai after a treaty with Vietnam, reducing the total to nine. However, the reduction to nine is not recognized by the ROC government, and still uses the eleven-dash line. A tenth dash to the east of Taiwan island was added in 2013 by the PRC, extending it into the East China Sea.
On 12 July 2016, an arbitral tribunal concluded that China’s historic-rights claim over the maritime areas (as opposed to land territories and territorial waters) inside the nine-dash line has no lawful effect if it exceeds what is entitled to under the UNCLOS. “… Rule on any question of sovereignty over land territory and would not delimit any maritime boundary between the Parties.” The ruling effectively invalidated the nine-dash line and China’s claims over the South China Sea. The ruling was rejected by both the PRC and ROC governments.
Maybe there was harassment by China’s coast guard to water hose our personnel delivering supplies to guard our claim in the Spratly Islands, but the action taken by those overzealous Chinese personnel could have resulted in a more violent reaction with unintended consequence.
Whether the hosing was an implied message that the area is within China’s territory, the President could have interpreted the message differently, considering that China is trying much to cultivate friendship with this country. Besides, the stranded ship has been there since 1998.
Maybe the Chinese personnel consider the stranded ship an “eye sore” and a hazard to navigation. As the President said, to quote: “We abhor the recent event in the Ayungin Shoal… This does not speak well of the relations between our nations and our partnership,” the President said at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) – China special summit commemorating the 30th anniversary of their dialogue relations. Duterte said the South China Sea issue was “a strategic challenge that cannot be solved by force” and called on stakeholders to “exercise utmost self-restraint, avoid the escalation of tensions and work toward the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.”
The reexamining the geographical boundaries demarcated in the Treaty of Paris clearly indicates that the boundaries were tightly adjusted much closer to the Philippines. The room for expansion came only after the Philippines signed and ratified the UNCLOS which extended us an allowance of 200 miles limit as our EEZ. After China joined and ratified UNCLOS, the world assumed to have legally waived its claim in these areas. The 184-km distance of the Ayungin Shoal from our shoreline is much less that the 1,000 kms that separate China’s nearest coastline to the disputed area of the Ayungin Shoal.
The contested area called Ayungin Shoal will be used by China as a midpoint to measure the center of the SCS and make claims beyond that limitation will make the country appear preposterous and ridiculous.