Short introduction: The Scarborough Shoals or Spratley Islands constitute more than 750 reefs, atolls, rocks and islets that are strategically located off the coast of the Philippines and Malaysia scattered over 400,000 square kilometers in South China Sea. There are six countries in the region claiming respective territorial sovereignty. China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim it entirely while portions are claimed by Malaysia, Brunei and Philippines which is claiming the Scarborough Shoal as falls within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. These islands might seem insignificant because they are uninhabitable and not ideal for construction of infrastructure yet six countries are claimants due to the believed to be rich in gas and oil deposits, marine ecosystem, fishing ground and ideal location for military strategies. Due to growing standoff in the territorial disputes, the Philippines seeks clarification from the tribunal as to whether China's 9-dashed line can negate the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone as guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which China is a signatory, which the case is solely a maritime dispute, and not territorial in nature.
The issue of territorial disputes against China regarding Spratleys Island seems to be ours easily but since it involves a powerful and giant country, it becomes complicated (Or may I say it involves wealth that’s why it becomes complicated.) Foremostly, based on the geographical presentation of the disputed islands is virtually sit well within the Philippines exclusive economic zone. While china is vividly hundred miles away from the disputed islands which are just beside our land, their claim (same with Taiwan) of a whole islands is based from their historical tale supported by producing their version of a modern time detailed map is obviously unbelievable and just printed to for the sake of claim. But the thing is their historical reasons are not marked clearly defined, instead based on numbers of historical events including the – 1433 AD. And in 1947, a map with the s0-called nine-dash line was produced by China. Although the Philippines claims came later in 1956 but it is clearly defined coordinates, and claims merit is on the proximity principle. Undocumented historical tale that wrote and rewrote again and again (as China does) will remain uncertain according to experts in maritime law.
Although we’re in the rational and reasonable side but no matter where we look, we are the aggrieved in this fight of territorial claim. It is totally mismatched when it comes to battle to defend our sovereignty over the territories. We don’t have enough resources, we’re outnumbered. Our military force is not well equipped with high tech, modern and state of the arts facilities. Our economy is just kicking up, unstable and our technology is far behind their advanced machineries. But we still have a choice. In a battle like David and Goliath, for you to defend is to find the ways that will not need to use your physical strength. We don’t need to spend to wage war since we may not able to afford it but we can stand united to at least harm their economy by stopping importing and using infamous China made products. In this way, we are not just only designing our game plan but also we show our nationalism by patronizing our own. And it can open door for us to look alternatives by focusing on our local resources to rediscover and enhance them, and find out what they can offer.
It’s an eye opener, it is a wakeup call for us to empower ourselves. Set aside political agenda and support our government to sustain the continuous growth of our economy to carry the modernization of our military, strengthening of our economy so that we’ll never look pathetic in times of our need to defend our own territories. We might have legal claims and attestations but with the current turn of event, claiming Spratleys Islands is a big challenge in our solidity and patriotic as Filipino and a big battle as well in our territorial sovereignty.
By Alex V. Villamayor
October 14, 2015