( You can enlarge the photo / maps by double clicking the image with your PC mouse)
The Philippine’s Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG) and the adjacent Spratly islands.
A group of more than 600 islets, coral reefs, sand bars, and atolls in the South China Sea. The islands are located west of Palawan island, northwest of Sabah and Brunei, and east of Vietnam.
The Philippine’s Kalayaan Islands Group of which the biggest island is the Pagasa Island (former name Thitu Island) is located more than 200 miles northwest from the main island of Spratly, and not a part of the so called Spratly Group of Island. Furthermore the Kalayaan Islands Group is inside the Philippine’s Exclusive Zones as defined by the United Nation’s Law of Sea Conference. The Kalayaan islands Group and most of the islands in the Spratly group is inside the 200 miles EEZ from the Philippine island of Palawan.
The Philippines is occupying nine features (seven islands, three reefs):
• Pagasa Island (Thitu Island)
• Likas Island (West York Island)
• Parola Island (Northeast Cay)
• Lawak Island (Nanshan Island)
• Kota Island (Loaita Island)
• Patag Island (Flat Island)
• Panata Island (Lankiam Cay)
• Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef)
• Balagtas Reef (Irving Reef
• Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Reef
37.2 ha. (2nd largest), pagasa means hope
18.6 ha. (3rd largest), likas means natural or evacuate
12.7 ha. (5th largest), parola means lighthouse
7.93 ha. (8th largest), lawak means vastness
6.45 ha. (10th largest), kuta means camp
0.57 ha. (14th largest), patag means flat
0.44 ha. (15th largest and the smallest, panata means oath
Rizal is named after Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines
Balagtas is named after Francisco Balagtas, a famous Filipino poet
Ayungin is a Philippine-endemic fish species with scientific name Leiopotherapon plumbeus
( Map of the northwest corner of Dangerous ground)
As a comparison, Vietnam occupies six islands, seventeen reefs and three banks. The Republic of China (Taiwan) has one island and one reef. Malaysia has one artificial island and five reefs. The Peoples Republic of China has eight reefs.
Also, the Philippines has some features that are "virtually occupied ". These are features that lie in very close proximity to Philippine-occupied features and that can be seen within the horizon. (A 15 meter-height vision gives about 9 miles (14 km) of horizon distance): North Reef, Sandy Cay or Extension Reef, Loaita Nan and Loaita Cay.
Furthermore, the features that lie to the east of the 116°E meridian, though not occupied, are largely controlled by the Philippines. This is the region that is near Palawan with the farthest feature being just 100 miles (161 km) away. Though the Philippines has enough muscle to occupy these features without receiving much protest from other claimant nations, it has decided to just concentrate its forces on Palawan. Philippine military officials often insist that these features are very near Palawan, labeling it as an "obvious" territory of the Philippines. Instead of building forces on the features, airfields and naval bases were built on Palawan’s west coast.
State of Kalayaan
The Philippine claim over the Spratly Islands began in May 1956, when Admiral Tomas Cloma, owner of a Philippine fishing vessel company and director of the Philippine Maritime Institute, declared the founding of the new state called "Kalayaan" (Eng.: freedom). He found the islands while he, with his brothers and 40 crew, was adventuring in the vast South China Sea. Observing that there was no human settlement nor national flag present on them, he decided to establish the Kalayaan state. He posted a document in English, entitled Notice to the Whole World, on all features he claimed. His claim comprises about fifty features among the Spratly chain. His declaration was met with violent reactions from other countries like China and South Vietnam, as well as the European countries of France, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, who were representing their colonies in Southeast Asia. While the Philippines did not endorse the new state to the world, it acknowledged it as the true sovereign state. In September 1956, after Taiwan occupied the largest island, Ligao Island (Itu Aba), Tomas Cloma decided to cede and sell all the territories of his state to the Philippines for just one peso, which was equivalent to US$0.50 at that time.
The Philippines sent troops to the Spratly chain for the first time in 1968. It prioritized large islands such as Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola Island (Northeast Cay), Kota (Loaita) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, and Pugad Island (Southwest Cay). Two small islands, Patag (Flat) Island and Panata Island (Lankiam Cay), were also occupied. Both are less than a hectare in size.
To further the claim of the Philippines on the island group, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, on June 11, 1978, formally annexed the Kalayaan Islands by virtue of Presidential Decree No.1596 to the Palawan.
Several years after the Philippines had occupied its latest island, it had been apparent that Vietnam is not content in only occupying islands. Vietnam started occupying many reefs. As of 2008, Vietnam has about 20 non-island occupied features. Some of these are very close to Philippine-occupied islands. Due to this pressure of losing fishing area in South China Sea, the Philippines decided to occupy at least two reefs. One is Rizal (Commodore) Reef which does not belong in the northeast region. It is near to many Vietnamese and Malaysian occupied reefs, thus serving as a good sentry against eastward expansion of Vietnam and northward expansion of Malaysia (see the map below). Another one is Balagtas (Irving) Reef. Unlike Rizal Reef, Balagtas Reef lies at the center of the northeast region, making islands occupied by the Philippines seem to be closer to each other. If this was occupied by other country, Philippine-occupied islands would have a hard time reaching each other.
Vietnamese invasion of Pugad island or Southwest Cay
Southwest Cay, known as Pugad island in the Philippines, as (南子岛) Nanzi Dao in China and as Đảo Song Tử Tây in Vietnam, is an island that belongs to the Spratly chain. It was occupied by Philippine forces up to 1975 only when South Vietnam forces were able to invade the island.
Southwest Cay is in the northern edge of the Spratly chain. It is within North Danger Reef which also contains the Philippine-occupied Northeast Cay (Parola Island), Vietnamese-occupied South Reef and unoccupied North Reef. Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay are just 1.75 miles (2.82 km) away from each other. Each island can actually see the other within their respective horizons.
The invasion took place when all the Philippine soldiers guarding the island of Pugad left to attend to the birthday party of their commanding officer who is based on nearby Parola Island. The storm that day is also believed to have persuaded all the soldiers to regroup temporarily on Parola island. A report also came out saying that South Vietnamese officials managed to send Vietnamese prostitutes to the birthday party to lure the Filipino soldiers guarding Pugad Island. It was said to be a "present" to the Philippine commander for his birthday and as a move of South Vietnamese forces to befriend all Filipino soldiers guarding the Spratlys. Philippine soldiers did not expect that South Vietnam would resort to foul play since both Philippines and South Vietnam, together with the United States, were allies in the Vietnam War. This tactic is believed to be the reason why South Vietnamese forces knew that the Filipino soldiers left the island, an action that is usually kept confidential.
After the party and after the weather cleared out, the returning soldiers were surprised that a company of South Vietnamese soldiers were already in the island. The South Vietnamese flag replaced the Philippine flag flying in the pole created by Philippine soldiers themselves. The soldiers returned to Parola immediately for fear that Parola would be the next target. After higher-ups of the Philippines were informed about the situation, they instructed the troops based in Parola and Pagasa to stay on red alert status. For the following mornings, the only thing the Filipino soldiers could do in Parola was to "curse" while South Vietnamese sang their national anthem. Malacañang officials, who did not want to compromise the alliance while the Vietnam War was still being fought, decided to remain silent.
A few months later, the recently formed unified Vietnam (after North Vietnam successfully invaded South Vietnam) decided to remove all remaining South Vietnamese troops in the Spratlys and establish military control among the features. It was reported that dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers in Pugad Island swam all the way to Parola just to avoid being captured by North Vietnamese forces. It was then when Malacañang officials, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos, discussed how the Philippines could reclaim the island. It had been apparent that most of the officials (who treat the communists as a threat to the Philippine national security) want to attack Pugad to reclaim it. However, after an intelligence report came stating that the unified Vietnam had already built a huge concrete garrison within a few weeks, the officials dropped the plan and tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. However, this approach eventually died along the process making Pugad a Vietnamese-occupied island up to this day. This incident was confirmed in interviews with soldiers involved in an episode of the defunct Magandang Gabi Bayan (Eng.: Good Evening Nation) (MGB) of ABS-CBN.
(Map of northeast corner of Dangerous ground)
(You can enlarge the photos / maps by double clicking the images with your PC mouse)
Expansion of other claimants
By the end of the 1970's, the Philippines had occupied a total of eight islands and two reefs. These features, excluding Southwest Cay, are still occupied by the Philippines today. The Philippines has never occupied another feature after the 1970's until 1999. While other countries occupied most of the features they control now during that period, the Philippines has maintained not to occupy any features further. It is attributed to the Philippines' initiation for the cooperative development of the area. The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, along with other ASEAN countries who can serve as investors, were already drawing a plan on a wide exploitation of the Spratly chain in the early 1980's when suddenly China became interested in the area. China began occupying features by mid-1980's causing the ASEAN plan to halt. The most controversial occupation of China is the Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in 1995 (See Mischief Reef for further discussion).
In 1999, Malaysia occupied Gabriela Silang Reef (Erica Reef) and Pawikan Reef (Investigator Shoal), causing the Philippines to protest further. Due to this pressure, with China's Mischief Reef just 130 miles (210 km) off Palawan and Vietnam's Pigeon Reef and Malaysia's Investigator Shoal just 150 miles (240 km) off Palawan, the Philippines decided to occupy Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Reef) in 1999. No structure is built on the reef. Soldiers stationed there take shelter at BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine naval ship that went aground in the reef shortly before the Philippines decided to occupy it. Together with Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef), Ayungin Reef can give the Philippines a sentry advantage in stopping other countries' occupation of features nearest to the Philippines (see map below).
China has also been reported seeking to establish another forward outpost, past Mischief Reef and closer to Palawan. Twice since 1998, it planted buoys on Sabina Shoal, just 82 miles (132 km) off Palawan. Philippine Air Force planes have blasted the buoys out of the water.
China occupied only eight features. However, these features were strategic points in the area, making China able to assert its exploitation rights for the whole area.
The Philippines have stationed soldiers in its occupied islands and reefs. One to three small structures were built in Likas, Parola, Kota, Lawak and Rizal Reef to house soldiers. The only island having a significant number of structures is Pagasa (see Pagasa Island subsection in this article), the only Philippine-occupied island to have a civilian population. The Philippines had not built any structure on Ayungin and Balagtas Reefs. A naval ship, BRP Sierra Madre, which ran aground on Ayungin Reef in 1999 serves as the shelter and observation post of soldiers stationed here. In Balagtas Reef, the Philippine Navy's ships alternately take shifts in guarding the reef, though they are not just guarding this reef but the whole area that is enclosed by all other Philippine-occupied islands. The two other Philippine-occupied islands, Patag and Panata, are each less than an hectare in area. Fortunately for the Philippines, these two tiny islands are each near to a large Philippine-occupied island. Patag Island is just 6 miles (9.7 km) from Lawak Island and Panata Island is just 8 miles (13 km) from Kota Island. The two large islands, Lawak and Kota, are 7.93 and 6.45 hectares in area respectively. With this setting, the Philippines is able to guard the small islands effectively without having to build any structures or to send any soldiers permanently to the two tiny islands. A 10 metres (33 ft) watchtower is present on each of the large islands to effectively see the tiny islands within the horizon. Also, Philippine naval vessels and reconnaissance planes are always present in the area to detect movements of foreign countries.
Philippine forces in the Spratly chain, just like any other country, reserve the right to shoot down any vessel of other countries that can be found within the horizon of its occupied features. For instance, the Smart Communications engineering team (who will install a communication system) sent to Pagasa Island in 2005 was forced to seek temporary refuge in BRP Sierra Madre because of an unexpected storm. Because their boat didn't carry a Philippine flag, the soldiers at BRP Sierra Madre considered sinking the boat. Fortunately for the engineering team, the soldiers did not continue their plan because they somehow felt that the boat is manned by Filipinos. They accurately thought that it might be just seeking refuge because of the storm.
A documentary produced by i-Witness of GMA 7, a local TV network, entitled Bantay ng Kalayaan (lit. Guard(s) of Kalayaan), featured the lives of soldiers guarding the islands of Patag and Lawak Islands. Because the two islands are near to each other, they are managed as a single division. In the documentary, only four enlisted soldiers are guarding them. A simple wooden structure was built in Lawak Island, the larger of the two islands. This serves as their shelter. They have two dogs which serve as inexpensive companions. A basketball ring is also erected to provide them a pastime on their boring assignment. Every month, a naval vessel visits to drop new supplies and to replace one or two soldiers. Their weapons only include M16 rifles and a few grenades. The soldiers themselves believe that they will never be able to protect the islands if other countries will try to attack them. However, all of them agree that the islands should be guarded since it is of national importance. Occasionally, some Filipino fishermen who happen to see the islands, visit for a few minutes for some nice chit-chats with the soldiers. These fishermen will normally commend the soldiers, boosting the soldiers' morale. Then before leaving, these fishermen give the soldiers some of their catch.
As of 2008, the only Philippine-occupied Spratly island to have many structures is Pagasa (Thitu) Island, the lone barangay of Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan. All Philippine-occupied Spratly islands are integrated as one municipality to the province of Palawan. Cities and municipalities in the Philippines are divided into smaller political units called barangays. However, because Pagasa is currently the only civilian-inhabited island, Kalayaan is the only municipality in the Philippines to have a single barangay and that is Pagasa. Pagasa has about 300 civilian residents and 40 soldiers. The civilian population is always less than 200 at a time since other Kalayaan residents have businesses to attend to on the Palawan mainland. The population is regulated to protect the island’s environment, to avoid short supplies of commodities and to conserve land space. Pagasa is only 37 hectares and can only accommodate a maximum of 500 people at a time. Most of the civilian population consists of poor Filipinos who were convinced by Mayor Mantes to settle in the islands since 2002. Before, Pagasa Island barely had a civilian population even though Kalayaan was already an established municipality. The settlers are provided a means of livelihood by the government. Most of them are involved in fishing and other sea-related crafts. To make some additions to their supplies which are provided by a naval ship which visits once a month, the settlers also raise pigs, goats and chickens and plant some crops in an allotted space.
Because of its thriving civilian community, the only one in the Spratly chain, Pagasa has many structures compared to other Philippine-occupied islands. These include the municipal multi-purpose hall, a school and clinic, a military outpost, a water treatement plant, a deep well, a marina, a 1.26 km airstrip, a commercial communications tower, power generator, houses of civilian families, pig barns and goat and poultry houses.
However, the number and size of Pagasa’s structures are still relatively few and small compared to structures of other countries’ occupied islands. One unique feature of Pagasa Island is its 1.26 kilometres (1,378 yd) unconcretized airstrip (named as Rancudo Airfield). Aerial photos of Pagasa Island show that a rectangular portion of the coral base around Pagasa is reclaimed to serve as an extension of the airstrip. Pagasa's airstrip is the longest airstrip in the Spratly chain, followed by Taiwan's Itu Aba (Ligao) Island's 1.150 kilometres (1,258 yd) airstrip (completed in January 2008), Malaysia's Swallow Reef's 1.067 kilometres (1,167 yd) airstrip and Vietnam's Spratly (proper) (Lagos) Island's 610 metres (667 yd) airstrip. Pagasa's airstrip can accommodate Philippine Air Force (PAF) fighter jets and even the huge C-130 cargo planes. Right now, numerous plans are proposed for Pagasa. One plan is construction of a hangar beside the airstrip to house more surveillance and fighter jets of the PAF. Another plan is to concretize the airstrip to avoid rough landings of planes.
For the Philippine Navy, they are proposing making a causeway that leads all the way to a deep water region where naval vessels can dock. Pagasa island is completely surrounded by its wide coral base making it hard for naval vessels to get near the island. Actually, one naval vessel, the BRP Benguet, attempted to dock near the island in 2004 but it was damaged and went aground. Up to this day, the damaged ship is still there. The Philippine government currently has no resources to move the damaged ship. And in 2001, civilian Filipinos who first settled on the island had needed to make numerous boat trips between the coast and the ship to move their belongings and properties. The pigs they have carried to the island were actually thrown in the water. The pigs float in water and they instinctively swim to the nearest land they can see.
Kalayaan residents have also erected an imposing bust of Tomas Cloma on the island as a tribute to Kalayaan's founder.
The Kalayaan residents (led by their mayor) are proposing to have the island developed for tourism. The island has a white beach; trees and birds are abundant. It has good diving spots too. An AFP military chief said that the army together with its navy would help bring more tourists to the white sands and pristine waters of Pagasa Island starting April 2008. In addition, there have been plans of building stilt cottages in Pagasa Island, like the ones in El Nido and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Several housing units were already built to accommodate tourists. One to two commercial flights between Pagasa and Puerto Princesa City are available weekly for tourists.
Other islands and reefs
Parola, Likas, Kota and Lawak Islands are expected to be populated within the following next two decades. However, the latter two islands may take a longer time to be populated because they are less than eight hectares, requiring a need for land reclamation to expand their areas. This will make the Municipality of Kalayaan to have a total of five barangays. On the other hand, Patag and Panata Islands are too small to be populated. They are most likely to remain as military outposts unless the Philippines opt to do some massive land reclamation projects on the islands. Rizal, Balagtas and Ayungin Reefs will likely remain as fishing zones occupied by Philippine forces. Land reclamation on these reefs, like what Malaysia did to Swallow Reef where Malaysia turned it into an artificial island with 6.2 hectares area, will reduce the Philippines' fishing space. Thus, such reclamation projects might be opposed by Filipino fishermen who regularly fish in the said reefs.
A proposal to build lighthouses in some shallow features to the east of the 116°E meridian like Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal is also being considered.
Filipino soldiers guarding the islands always feel bored in their assignment. Their niche is very small. There is very little to do in the islands. Though all features of the Philippines have a satellite dish to provide soldiers access to television shows, and a satellite telephone for them to have continuous contact with their family and superiors, these have not been enough to lift their boredom.
The soldiers in Lawak Island, just to signify how bored they were, said that they enjoy watching the flights, egg-laying and incubation of the numerous sea gulls living on the island.
The soldiers on Rizal Reef, on the other hand, enjoy fishing. Rizal Reef has white sandbars which are above water level when the tide is not extremely high. These sandbars enclose many lagoons which according to the soldiers are like "swimming pools" for the clear water they enclose. When the weather is bad (e.g., typhoon), there comes the boredom. They have no choice but to stay inside their small quarters on stilts. However, they are not totally bitter when the weather is bad since it is also their source of clean water. The roof of their quarters is made such that it can catch raindrops and stock them in a huge container. The soldiers said that, unlike food which can be provided by their fishing and a vegetable garden beside their barracks, fresh water is their number one concern. When they run out of fresh water supplied by the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard, they begin drinking the water caught from the rain. And during these times is when they limit their baths as much as they can.
Soldiers on Ayungin Reef have similar problems regarding clean water. However, unlike the soldiers in Rizal Reef who have small quarters, the soldiers in Ayungin Reef have a much better lifestyle. Their shelter is the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine naval vessel. They have individual beds, a karaoke machine and a dining area.
The Philippine Marines in Panata Island, on the other hand, used to raise up to five sharks at a time in a lagoon located in the middle of the island.
The Philippine government tries to compensate for this boredom by giving the soldiers a salary way above their normal salary. Actually, this has been the reason why some of the soldiers always volunteer to take the job despite the boredom.
( Map of southwest corner of Dangerous ground)(You can enlarge the photos / maps by double clicking the images with your PC mouse)
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
By TESSA JAMANDRE
THREE months after three other countries formally submitted to the United Nations their claims over the disputed Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), the Philippines finally registered its protests to those claims.
Two protests to the unilateral submissions of Vietnam and Palau and another on the Joint Submission of Malaysia and Vietnam were filed by the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
The diplomatic protests were received by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations in New York on Aug. 4, shortly before the deadline. The Philippines almost exhausted the 90-day period given to states to lodge their protest. (Download Philippine protests to the claims of Malaysia, Vietnam and Palau.)
Malaysia and Vietnam on May 6 formally made a joint claim on the southern part of the South China Sea as part of their continental shelf. China promptly protested the submission the following day. Vietnam filed its own protest on May 8, while Malaysia’s note verbale in reply to China’s protest was received on May 20.
Malaysia claims Sabah
One of the areas that Malaysia is claiming as its extended continental shelf was clearly projected from Sabah, thereby effectively declaring Sabah to be a Malaysian territory. Its claim also covers the outer edge of the continental margin in the southern part of the South China Sea, an area that includes the KIG which the Philippines has declared as a regime of islands under its baselines law.
Malaysia and Vietnam are among the claimant countries to the cluster of islands in the South China Sea referred to as the Spratlys. The same islands are also contested by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and China.
The Philippine claim in the Spratlys covers eight islands and reefs. Along with Malaysia, the Philippines is also claiming Sabah, which is on the northern part of Borneo. For the past decades, the two countries have shelved the issue for the sake of peaceful co-existence between them.
The Malaysian claim over Sabah is based on a perpetual lease that began in 1963. The Malaysian government is still paying an annual rent of 5,300 Malaysian ringgit, or less than P70,000, to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu. Sabah was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to the Sultanate of Sulu, which ruled Sabah until it was leased.
The Philippines formally asserted that Sabah was part of its territory in 1962, based on the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu, who had ceded proprietary rights over Sabah to the Philippines.
In their joint submission, Vietnam and Malaysia said they “may make further submissions, either jointly and unilaterally, in respect to other areas.”
Vietnam's claim, China's map
On May 7, Vietnam made a unilateral partial submission of its extended continental shelf in the northern part of its territory, covering part of the disputed Spratlys chain. Unlike the Philippines, China protested on the same day. Vietnam replied to China’s protest on May 8.
It was the first time that China had attached a map to its diplomatic protest to submissions that had to do with the disputed South China Sea. In both notes verbale protesting the joint submission of Malaysia and Vietnam and the unilateral submission of Vietnam, China reiterated its “indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the SCS (South China Sea) and the adjacent waters and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof.”
China also asserted that such indisputable sovereignty “is consistently held by the Chinese government, and is widely known by the international community.”
Vietnam was quick to note that and pushed back, stating that the map “has no legal, historical basis, (and is) therefore null and void.” It also asserted that the Spratlys archipelago or Troung Sa is part of its territory and that it “has indisputable sovereignty over these archipelagos.”
RP cites UNCLOS articles
While Vietnam and China both declared sovereignty over the disputed area, the Philippine protest merely stated that the “Joint Submission for the Extended Continental Shelf by Malaysia and Vietnam lays claim on areas that are disputed not only because they overlap with that of the Philippines, but also because of the controversy arising from the territorial claims on some of the islands in the area including North Borneo.”
Citing the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Rules of procedure of the Commission on the Law of the Sea that disqualifies a submission on disputed areas, the Philippines requested the commission “to refrain from considering the aforementioned Joint Submission by Malaysia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, unless and until after the parties have discussed and resolved their disputes.”
As of press time, the Philippine protest has drawn no response.
In its protest, the Philippines said the areas covered by Vietnam’s unilateral partial submission are “disputed because they overlap with those of the Philippines.”
Citing the same provisions of the UNCLOS pertaining to disputed areas, the Philippines requested deferment of the commission’s consideration of Vietnam’s unilateral submission.
(Map of southeast corner of Dangerous ground)
(You can enlarge the photos / maps by double clicking the images with your PC mouse)
Philippine Baseline Law
Arroyo's new baseline is a sellout to China--
CPPFebruary 20, 2009
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today slammed the 2009 Baseline Bill, saying that it kowtows to the demands of the Chinese government for the Philippines to surrender its claim of sovereignty over the Kalayaan Islands (Spratly Islands, in international nomenclature) and nearby Scarborough Shoals. The bill was approved Wednesday by the Senate and House of Representatives and will soon be signed into law by Arroyo.
"This is nothing but a sellout to China in exchange for the largesse that Gloria and Mike Arroyo have been receiving from corrupt Chinese bureaucrats and big compradors," said the CPP. "Since Gloria Arroyo began entering into numerous anomalous deals with Chinese officials and corporations, she has been pressing for the outright elimination of the Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoals from the Philippine baseline in order to give way to the claim of the Chinese government of sovereignty over the islands."
While formally maintaining "territorial jurisdiction" over the Kalayaan Islands and Scarborough Shoals, the new baseline bill decisively downgrades the Philippine claim of sovereignty over these through their recategorization as a "regime of islands."
The recategorization, supposedly in recognition of claims by other countries, upsets the old baseline bill that was passed into law as Republic Act 3046 (in 1961) amended by Republic Act 5446 (in 1968) and which includes all areas covered by the archipelagic theory, the surrounding 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and all other areas covered by international treaties since 1898 and presently under the jurisdiction of the Philippines. The old national baseline includes the Spratly Islands, which are only 25 kilometers from the southern tip of Palawan and currently under the jurisdiction of the provincial government of Palawan and garrisoned and occupied by Philippine military forces.
Interest in the Spratlys was heightened after the first major Philippine natural gas discovery in 1976 occurred within the scope of the islands, which now accounts for 15% of all petroleum consumed in the country. The Spratlys, a cluster of islands, shoals, islets, cays and reefs at the edge of the South China Sea, and their surrounding waters harbor rich mineral and oil reserves and other natural resources.
With the recategorization of the areas as a "regime of islands," albeit supposedly "under Philippine sovereignty", the Philippine government has surrendered its exclusive claim over the group of islands and its waters, thus decisively weakening the Philippine claim. In response, China has reiterated its absolute and exclusive claim to the islands. Despite the watering down of the Philippine claim, the Chinese government has formally objected to the wording of the new Philippine baseline bill which still posits a token claim of national sovereignty over the islands.
Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are also claiming ownership over the Kalayaan Islands in part or in whole. "The new baseline bill is the pound of Philippine flesh that the Arroyos are paying back to big Chinese bureacrats and corporations in exchange for the millions of dollars in bribe monies Gloria and Mike Arroyo have accumulated from highly overpriced government contracts, including the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal, North Rail and South rail projects, Cyber-education projects, Mount Diwalwal mining deal and other bribery and corruption-ridden deals with Chinese corporations," the CPP stated.
The CPP said further that "The Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) which Arroyo signed with Chinese officials in 2004 was a particularly heinous act of national treachery. The deal allowed China to undertake exclusive seismic exploration and data acquisition in and around the Spratlys, resulting in the Philippines' loss of valuable pieces of information regarding the natural wealth in the disputed area." After the study was completed by the end of 2005, China's Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry had estimated that the Spratlys area holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons, much bigger than the oil reserves of Kuwait, which has the fourth biggest oil reserves in the world. "None of this information has been shared with the Philippines," said the CPP.
Other web link about Spratly :
Videos on Pag-asa islan
Air Force chief visits troops on Spratlys' Pag-Asa Island
05/02/2008 07:50 PM
Spratlys' Pag-asa Island is potential tourist attraction
03/26/2008 06:55 PM
AFP chief visits Spratlys
03/25/2008 07:01 PM