Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 June 2014


The country owes Justice Antonio Carpio a debt of gratitude for his recent lecture, titled “Historical Facts, Historical Lies, and Historical Rights in the West Philippine Sea,” in De La Salle University. Its 62 pages (about 40 of which contain maps dating from 1136 AD during the Song Dynasty and through the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties) provide the most lucid and exhaustive exposition of those topics I have come across. Brilliant.

Given its importance to current and future generations of Filipinos—put simply, China’s 9-dash-line claim deprives the Philippines of 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 100 percent of its extended continental shelf (ECS) in the West Philippine Sea—I strongly suggest that Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Commission on Higher Education Chair Tati Licuanan make sure it is required reading in all schools. The rest of us, including the Chinese-Filipino community, can access it from the Internet, but it should be published as a monograph. Knowledge is power.

Carpio demolishes, point by painful point, the Chinese government’s assertion that “historical facts” justify its 9-dash-line claims, by citing actual historical facts based on China’s own (a) historical maps, (b) constitutions, and (c) official pronouncements, which are all “glaringly inconsistent” with China’s current position.

Item: Maps. Carpio shows 16 maps drawn by Chinese authorities or individuals, from 1136 to 1933. These maps show that Hainan Island is the southernmost territory of China.  He also shows three maps drawn between 1700 and 1833 by foreigners showing the same thing. What does this have to do with us?  Simply, “There is not a single ancient Chinese map, whether made by Chinese or foreigners, showing that the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were ever part of Chinese territory.”

Carpio also shows 34 maps drawn between 1636 and 1933 by Philippine authorities and foreigners, all showing Scarborough Shoal, named or unnamed (Punto de Mandato, Panacot, Bajo de Masinloc), as part of the Philippines.

Another point on Scarborough: It was used from the 1960s-1980s as an impact range for US and Philippine warplanes (pictures of wreckages of dummy ordnances in the waters). Neither China nor any other country protested these bombing practices, despite worldwide prior notices to mariners, through the International Maritime Organization of the United Nations, for them to keep away from Scarborough Shoal during the practices. If the Philippines can bomb a shoal repeatedly over decades without any protest from neighboring states, it certainly must have sovereignty over such shoal.

Item: Constitutions. Carpio quotes from five constitutions of China since the fall of the Qing Empire in 1912, which reiterates that its territory remained the same as the territory of the Qing Dynasty (which means that Hainan Island is China’s southernmost territory).

Carpio then shows that under international law, the territory of the Republic of China as of the effectivity of these constitutions is limited to the territory of the Qing Dynasty (with Hainan Island as its southernmost territory).

Item: Official pronouncements. As late as 1932, China was telling the world that its southernmost border was Hainan Island (now including the Paracels), and Carpio quotes from a note verbale issued to the French government on Sept. 29, 1932, protesting the French occupation of the Paracels: “These groups lie 145 nautical miles from Hainan Island, and form the southernmost part of Chinese territory.”

If Hainan Island and the Paracels constitute the southernmost part of Chinese territory per the official declaration of the Chinese government in 1932, asks Carpio, how can Scarborough Shoal, which is 380 NM from Paracels and 500 NM from Hainan, be part of Chinese territory?

Yet, that is what China’s 9-dash-line claim asserts. And China’s basis for this is “historical facts and international law,” as stated by its foreign minister. Carpio demonstrated that actual historical facts belie China’s claim.

But even if the historical facts were consistent with China’s 9-dash-line claim, it still would not be enough. Historical facts have no bearing whatsoever under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). In the same way that the 1481 Papal Bull, which divided the undiscovered world between Spain and Portugal, has no legal effect today; and the sea voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He from 1405 to 1433 cannot be a basis for China’s claim to the South China Sea, which is where it has its 9-dash line. Furthermore, Zheng He’s voyages did not result in any claims of sovereignty, or colonies or anything. South China Sea was used as trade routes by the Austronesians a thousand years before Zheng He. (Carpio makes an interesting point about Filipino traders in balangay sailing between the Philippines and China 400 years before Zheng He, and Visayan caracoa’s pillaging the Fukien coast of China).

Unfortunately for China, international law is also against its 9-dash-line claim. Under the Unclos, countries have 12 NM of territorial sea, 200 miles of EEZ, and another 150 miles of ECS. Under China’s claim, James Shoal, the southernmost territory is 950 NM from China (within Malaysia’s EEZ). Moreover, it is a fully submerged reef, 22 meters underwater. Ridiculous.

Thank you, Justice Carpio, for showing us that the emperor has no clothes.

A question, though: Where are our historians, political scientists and China watchers, who should have done this research?