THE PHILIPPINE government should use historical evidence including old maps to cement its claim to disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea, historians said at the weekend.
“The strongest way of owning a property is when you buy the island or the property,” Sultan Tomas R. Cabili, Jr., president of the Tomas Cabili Peace Foundation in Manila, said by telephone. “The second is through patrimony.”
Mr. Cabili said the indigenous Philippine map called Carta Indigena Filipina showed Philippine jurisdiction over the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
“Patrimony is through your ancestors who were the ones who brought people and did trade in the area with Taiwan up to the Vietnam Strait, where they anchored at the Spratlys to get their goods [to different places,]” he said.
Sixteen sultans in Mindanao known to be descendants of the Iranun ethnic group signed in August a declaration claiming ownership of the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal using the Carta Indigena Filipina as evidence.
Muslim historian Nasser S. Sharief said in a separate video call the Philippine Congress should pass a bill declaring ownership of these islands, after which the government could bring the issue to the United Nations.
The House of Representatives passed the proposed law on maritime zones in May. A counterpart bill is being heard at the committee level.
Maritime experts have been urging Congress to pass the measure to enforce a 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed arbitration court that voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1940s map.
The Philippines has been unable to enforce the ruling and has since filed hundreds of protests over what it calls encroachment and harassment by China’s coast guard and its vast fishing fleet.
Mr. Cabili said the Philippines should fast-track mapping its claims in the South China Sea, noting that China has allegedly developed nine of about 20 features in the Spratlys “without our knowledge.”
“They only need two more and they can apply for an archipelago themselves and own these islands,” he added.
Mr. Sharief said the Carta Indigena Filipina was found on an Iranun-Moro ship that sunk along the coast of Sulu between the late 18th century and the early 19th century. It has been at the Museo Naval de Madrid since 1847.
He said the other map of the Philippines commonly used to refer to its territory, the Velarde map, only includes the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal, not the Spratlys.
The Spratly Islands are a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea composed of islands, islets, cays and more than 100 reefs. They lie off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and southern Vietnam.
“The Carta Indigena Filipina map includes the South China Sea itself and it was drawn by indigenous Filipinos,” Mr. Sharief said.
The Iranun ethnic group, known to be ancestors of the Maranao and Maguindanaon, traded spices, vegetables and gold via the Sulawan Island or the Spratlys and Panakot Island or Scarborough Shoal, Mr. Cabili said.
“They were really warriors or pirates of the sea,” he said. “They were really very much armed during those days and they fought for the products they had on board.”
“Our ancestors actually traded from Palawan to the mainland Southeast Asia through the Spratlys,” Mr. Sharief said.
Mr. Cabili said he is set to meet with President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s special envoy to China, Teodoro “Teddy Boy” L. Locsin, Jr. to propose negotiations with Beijing using the Carta Indigena Filipina map.
Source : BW