Justice Carpio debunks China’s historical claim
MANILA, Philippines–Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) has always been part of the Philippines that from the 1960s to the 1980s, Philippine and American planes used it as an impact range during joint military exercises.
And, according to Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, China or any other country never protested the bombing runs on the shoal.
China is claiming the resource-rich shoal off Zambales province as part of its territory, seizing it after a two-month maritime standoff with the Philippines in 2012.
“If the Philippines can bomb a shoal repeatedly over decades without any protest from neighboring states, it must have sovereignty over [that] shoal,” Carpio said in a lecture at De La Salle University in Manila last Friday.
Carpio, who had been going around lecture circles questioning the legality of China’s claim to 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, again took on China’s assertions in a lecture titled “Historical Facts, Historical Lies and Historical Rights in the West Philippine Sea.”
He said China was arguing that its extensive claim was based on “historical facts and international law.”
But historical facts, Carpio said, have “no bearing whatsoever in the resolution of maritime disputes” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
China also cannot invoke ancient conquests and maps under international law to claim territories, he said.
China’s own maps
Carpio showed copies of maps of China dating back to the 13th century and to the 1930s, made by Chinese authorities or individuals and even foreigners, that showed the southernmost territory of China has always been Hainan Island and that Chinese territory never included the Spratly Islands in the middle of the South China Sea and Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“There is not a single ancient map, whether made by Chinese or foreigners, showing that the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were ever part of Chinese territory,” Carpio said.
He said China itself had been saying as late as 1932 that the southernmost part of Chinese territory was Hainan Island.
Carpio called China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, which Beijing calls “nine-dash line,” a “gigantic historical fraud” because it claims that its southernmost territory is James Shoal, which is 90 kilometers from the coast of Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia—within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone—and more than 1,700 km from China.
Under international law, a country’s territory extends up to only 370 km from its shores.
Carpio said Philippine maps from 1636 to 1940, or for 340 years, “consistently show Scarborough Shoal, whether named or unnamed, as part of the Philippines.”
Spain also ceded Scarborough Shoal to the United States under the 1900 Treaty of Washington, he said.
“In sum, China’s so-called historical facts to justify its nine-dash line are glaringly inconsistent with actual historical facts, based on China’s own historical maps, constitutions and official pronouncements,” Carpio said.
“China has no historical link whatsoever to Scarborough Shoal. The rocks of Scarborough Shoal were never bequeathed to the present generation of Chinese by their ancestors because their ancestors never owned those rocks in the first place,” he said.
The Philippines has renewed its call for a peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea at high-level meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Rangoon, Burma.
Speaking at one of the meetings on Monday, Foreign Undersecretary Evan Garcia, head of the Philippine delegation, said the recent provocative and unilateral actions by China infringed on the rights of Manila and other countries under the Unclos and also violated the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
He also called for the early conclusion of a binding code of conduct between the Asean and China to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea from erupting into armed conflict.