Philippines Flays China’s Position On South China Sea – Part II


Like Vietnam, the Philippines also have maritime disputes with China over territorial claims on the South China Sea. The basis of China’s territorial claims has been covered in the first part of this two-part article and need not be repeated here. This much will suffice to mention however is that the basis of China’s claims lacks legal legitimacy and therefore unacceptable to other claimants.

The Philippines’ territorial claims

The official position of the Philippines is that there was no effective sovereignty over the islands in South China Sea until the 1930s when France and then Japan acquired the islands. After Japan’s defeat, Japan renounced its sovereignty over the islands in the San Francisco Treaty of 1951 and this relinquishment of the right to the islands was not accompanied with any other special beneficiary. Thus, unlike China and Vietnam whose claims have historical basis dating back to thousands of years, Philippines’ position is relatively recent, if seen based on historical evidence.

According to Philippines’ assertion, in 1956, a Filipino citizen, Tomas Cloma, unilaterally declared a state on 53 features in the South China Sea, calling it “Freedomland”. When the Republic of China moved to occupy the main island, Cloma sold his claim to the Philippine government, which annexed (de jure) the islands in 1978, calling them Kalayaan.1 On 11 June 1978, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines issued Presidential decree No. 1596, declaring the Spratly Islands as a part of Filipino territory.2

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