Defending What is Rightfully and Legitimately Ours


Secretary of Foreign Affairs

Supreme Court Senior Associate, the Honorable Justice Antonio T. Carpio;
The Honorable Leila De Lima, Secretary of Justice;
The Honorable Voltaire Gazmin, Secretary of National Defense;
The Honorable Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales;
The Honorable Chairman Juan Andres Baustista,PCGG;
Bro. Michael Broughton, FSC, Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission;
Atty. Elma Christine Leogardo, President, Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs;
DLSU Faculty Members, Students and Staff;
DFA Colleagues;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Good afternoon.

It is a privilege to join today’s launch of A Cartographic Exhibit on “Historical Truths and Lies: Scarborough Shoal in Ancient Maps,” based on the compelling lecture of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, delivered in this very University on 06 June 2014.

Let me congratulate the De La Salle University, the Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs, and the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines for mounting this timely exhibit which strongly supports our principled foreign policy position of defending what is rightfully and legitimately ours.

I cannot commend Justice Carpio enough for consistently serving as one of our steadfast advocates and notable scholars on the West Philippine Sea issue.

I moreover welcome this opportunity for the DFA to express our deep admiration, our high regard, and our warm esteem for Justice Carpio.

The issue before us today is about our commitment to freedom and safety of navigation and commerce. It is about the preservation of a stable and secure environment in the region. It is about our national interest in protecting what is ours in the West Philippine Sea.
A Counter-Narrative to the Chinese Propaganda

This well-documented Cartographic Exhibit, therefore, provides a compelling argument against China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, as represented by its nine-dash line position, an excessive and expansive claim, that is in gross violation of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

Under UNCLOS, a state cannot claim any “historical title” to the Exclusive Economic Zone or Extended Continental Shelf of another state.

Notably, while the international courts and tribunals take a cautious approach in the use of maps or any cartographic evidence in their rulings, they have, nonetheless, used maps as secondary or corroborating evidence in establishing facts.

The exhibit is a laudable initiative to ferret out the truth from the fallacies, separate the wheat from the chaff, and present a factual counter-narrative to the propaganda.

Based on the numerous ancient maps made by Westerners, and later by Philippine authorities, from 1636 to 1940, the exhibit corroborates the following:

  • That Bajo de Masinloc, contrary to China’s assertions, has never been Chinese territory;
  • That Bajo de Masinloc is part of the Philippines; and
  • That Chinese maps failed to demonstrate the so-called “historic rights” claim by China over the waters, seabed and subsoil in the South China Sea.

Contrary to its claims, China has not used or controlled the South China Sea “since time immemorial.” This exhibit and our advocacies on the South China Sea are also best seen in the context of the identity and history of the Philippines as both a maritime and archipelagic nation.The Philippines is the second largest archipelagic nation, with one of the longest coastlines, in the world. Pre-Hispanic Filipinos thrived with other

Austronesian peoples in Southeast Asia’s maritime heartland. The South China Sea has always been part of this vast maritime realm. in remote antiquity, Southeast Asia was a region of inter-linked maritime economies with flourishing linkages to China, India, Persia and the Arabs in West Asia. The spices from Southeast Asia reached the ancient Mediterranean world, largely by sea through, the Middle East, though Europeans did not know of their true origin till the 15th Century.

Much of the region’s trade, including the long-distance trade, was carried on Southeast Asian vessels in the earliest times ahead of those of other civilizations. During the Spanish period from 1565 to 1815, Manila was the Asian hub in the first global trade route between Asia and the Americas – the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade.
Maritime interests are, indeed, fundamental to the Philippines’ past, present and future.

The Triple Action Plan

Ladies and gentlemen, Consistent with our advocacy for the rule of law, we also recently proposed a Triple Action Plan or TAP, a positive, constructive and comprehensive framework that brings together various initiatives that the Philippines and other countries have been advocating on the issue of the South China Sea for, the past years.

  • As an immediate approach, the TAP calls for a cessation of activities that escalate tension in the South China Sea, pursuant to paragraph 5 of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC which calls for: (11) the conduct of self-restraint; (2) no inhabiting of uninhabited features; and (3) handling differences in a constructive manner.
  • For the intermediate approach, the TAP highlights the need and call for the full and effective implementation of the DOC and the expeditious conclusion of the Code of Conduct or COC.
  • As a final approach, the TAP underscores the need for a settlement mechanism to bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution anchored on international law.
  • The Philippines’ arbitration is an open, friendly and durable solution to settling the maritime disputes. We believe it benefits everyone by clarifying their maritime entitlements.
    We have received much support on this initiative from other countries who are equally concerned with the growing tension in the South China Sea.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Whether in summits, academic lectures or exhibits, the challenge before us is to continue to communicate effectively and efficiently our principled position on the West Philippine Sea issue.

This meaningful exhibit strengthens our resolve to pursue not just any kind of resolution to our maritime dispute, but a just and lasting solution, grounded on international law.

Moreover, in the context of the South China Sea disputes, history will always be a contested ground. This is not unusual. All over the world, at many times, nation-states have resurrected their views of the past to justify their positions in the present. Our people must be prepared with the intellectual arsenal provided by this exhibit to defend our own interpretation of history.

For your information, other South China Sea claimants have already mounted historical exhibits for this purpose. The Philippines, while doing the same, will certainly correct the historical errors of others.

We have the moral high ground.

We have international law on our side. We are in the right.

Let us therefore continue to speak with´┐╝ one voice.

I thank you.


1. In its decision for the Burkina Faso/Republic of Mali case, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) states that “[M]aps can still have no greater legal value than that of corroborative evidence endorsing a conclusion at which a court has arrived by other means unconnected with the maps. In consequence, except when the maps are in the category of a physical expression of the will of the State, they cannot in themselves alone be treated as evidence of a frontier, since in that event they would form an irrebuttable presumption, tantamount in fact to legal title. The only value they possess is as evidence of an auxiliary or confirmatory kind, and this also means that they cannot be given the character of a rebuttable or juris tanturn presumption such as to effect a reversal of the onus of proof…” See Frontier Dispute, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1986, p. 554, at para 56. See also Erik FRANCKX and Marco BENATAR (2012), “Dots and Lines in the South China Sea:: Insights from the Law of Map Evidence, “Asian Journal of International Law, 2, pp 89-118, doi:10.1017/S2044251311000117, at p.104-105.