Filipinos must know what is theirs, or they risk los­ing it al­to­gether

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Philip­pine Supreme Court Se­nior As­so­ciate Jus­tice An­to­nio Car­pio has once again sounded the alarm on main­land China’s con­tin­u­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the West Philip­pine Sea.

Main­land China, he said, is not just build­ing ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands at seven reefs that are all within the Philip­pines’ ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone as de­fined and rec­og­nized by the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea, to which both coun­tries are sig­na­to­ries. The for­ti­fi­ca­tions be­ing made are at the ex­pense of 10 other reefs within the con­tested area, which are be­ing dredged to pro­vide fill­ing ma­te­rial for the seven reefs that main­land China has ap­pro­pri­ated for it­self, de­spite com­pet­ing claims not only by the Philip­pines but also by Viet­nam, Malaysia, Brunei and Tai­wan.

Car­pio’s ear­lier re­search into and sur­vey of 60 an­cient maps, the old­est of which dates back to 1136 un­der China’s Nan Song Dy­nasty, have per­sua­sively de­bunked main­land China’s claim of “his­tor­i­cal own­er­ship” over nearly 90 per­cent of the South China Sea based on its so-called nine-dash line. That de­mar­ca­tion would have brought China’s mar­itime bor­der suf­fo­cat­ingly close to a long stretch of the Philip­pines’ coast­line — from Yamin Is­land in north­ern Batanes to Bal­abac Is­land in south­ern Palawan, as Car­pio has pointed out.

But, as his re­search into an­cient car­tog­ra­phy shows, none of the maps ever in­di­cated that the Spratly Is­lands and Scar­bor­ough Shoal were ever part of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. In fact, another map not part of Car­pio’s sur­vey ap­pears to pro­vide con­clu­sive proof that Scar­bor­ough Shoal, then called “Pana­cot,” was al­ready part of the Philip­pine do­main some 300 years ago. The Murillo Ve­larde map, a cer­ti­fied true copy of which was re­cently ac­quired by busi­ness­man Mel Ve­larde through auc­tion at Sotheby’s in Lon­don, in­cludes Scar­bor­ough or Pana­cot in what it presents as a “A Hy­dro­graph­i­cal and Coro­graph­i­cal Chart of the Philip­pine Is­lands,” circa 1734.

But these pieces of prima fa­cie ev­i­dence have not de­terred main­land China from im­pos­ing its spe­cious claim by suc­ces­sively grab­bing and leapfrog­ging from one reef and islet to another — by force if nec­es­sary, such as when it drove away Philip­pine troops sta­tioned on Scar­bor­ough in 2012 — and even­tu­ally trans­form­ing these sliv­ers of land into what ap­pear to be mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions and other fa­cil­i­ties that would give it greater dom­i­nance and for­ward flex­i­bil­ity in the area. The de­mands so far by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to halt any ac­tiv­i­ties that con­trib­ute to fur­ther ten­sion in the re­gion have been roundly ig­nored by main­land China; in­stead, it has tru­cu­lently at­tacked the Philip­pines for seek­ing in­ter­na­tional ar­bi­tra­tion via the In­ter­na­tional Tri­bunal for the Law of the Sea to help re­solve the con­flict and make main­land China de­sist from uni- lat­er­ally en­forc­ing its claim.

Car­pio is tire­less in his ef­forts to keep this is­sue alive — to drum up and sus­tain at­ten­tion against main­land China’s un­re­lent­ing machi­na­tions to cre­ate a fait ac­com­pli in the re­gion that would pre­vent other claimant coun­tries from reac­quir­ing ter­ri­to­ries that it has forcibly an­nexed. His is heroic work that the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment should take up, sup­port and ex­pand. Specif­i­cally, with the map ex­hibit Car­pio has put to­gether, as well as the Murillo Ve­larde map that Ve­larde has promised he would do­nate to the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment, all Filipino school­child­ren and stu­dents should hence­forth be taught more as­sid­u­ously about the facts, the history and the im­pli­ca­tions of the Philip­pine claim in the South China Sea.

As re­tired Univer­sity of the Philip­pines ge­og­ra­phy pro­fes­sor Meli­ton Juanico lamented in an opin­ion piece in this pa­per, “ge­o­graphic il­lit­er­acy” ap­pears to con­trib­ute to wide­spread dis­in­ter­est and ap­a­thy among or­di­nary Filipinos who can’t seem to be roused to en­gage­ment and anger de­spite China’s abu­sive, bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior. The loss of ter­ri­tory in the seas that are well within the Philip­pines’ in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized eco­nomic zone has not oc­ca­sioned the kind of in­dig­nant and res­o­lute re­ac­tion among Filipinos that the Viet­namese, for in­stance, have con­sis­tently shown when­ever main­land China so much as tries to en­croach on its own claimed do­mains.

“If we had been taught that the mar­itime ter­ri­to­ries are part of our na­tional pat­ri­mony that we should love and de­fend, it should have been easy to kin­dle na­tion­al­is­tic fer­vor against in­trud­ers,” writes Juanico. In­deed. It might be late in the day, but not too late, to start re­dress­ing this mon­u­men­tal omis­sion. Filipinos need to know what is ours — or we risk los­ing it by in­dif­fer­ence. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by Philip­pine Daily In­quirer on Aug. 1.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.