Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kalayaan Islands Group and the Spratly Islands


A group of more than 600 islets, coral reefs, sand bars, and atolls in the South China Sea. The islands are located to the northwest of Brunei, the Malaysian state of Sabah, and the Philippine island of Palawan. Ownership of some or all of the Spratlys is disputed between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

The largest of the 12 main islets is Itu Aba, with a total area of 36 hectares (90 acres); none is permanently inhabited. The most significant types of local wildlife are seabirds and turtles. Geological surveys indicate that the Spratlys lie atop avast oil and gas reserves, perhaps greater than any previously discovered. The islands also lie along important shipping lanes. The Spratly Islands were controlled by France from 1933 to 1939, by Japan during World War II (1939-1945), and after the war China established a garrison on Itu Aba, which Taiwan retained following its split with mainland China in 1949.

All the competing claimants except Brunei maintain military installations on one or more of the islands. There are periodic armed clashes in the region; in 1988 more than 70 people were killed during a confrontation between China and Vietnam. The Spratly Islands are regarded as a potential flashpoint for regional conflict, especially because China has so far resisted submitting the dispute to international courts.

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 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 Economic Zones as defined in the United Nation’s Law of Sea Conference. It allows each coastal nation to exercise sovereignty over a territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles (22 km/14 mi) wide and jurisdiction over resources, scientific research, and environmental protection in an exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles (370 km/230 mi) offshore; beyond this zone, seabed minerals development.

While the claims of China and Taiwan was based on the 2,000 years old maps and records of ancient Chinese Dynastic Kingdom that the islands of Spratly was visited by Chinese fishermen and hence became part of China. However on that mentioned maps the Malay Peninsula and the Philippines was mentioned also as part of the Chinese kingdom which is ridiculous and absurd.

The new Philippine Baselines Law and the Spratly conflict.

The government of the day has decided to push the envelope in its territorial dispute with China over the comparatively small region of the Spratlys off northwestern Palawan.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must have felt she was caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea in terms of meeting a supposed May 13, 2009 deadline set in the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea for nations to file claims defining their extended continental shelf, and of not ruffling Beijing’ feathers

The rich mineral resources believed nesting under the Spratlys which some have estimated to be worth upwards of 20-billion dollars certainly factors into the dispute given how expanded continental shelves are reckoned compared to other parameters in the definition of a nation’s boundaries.

But China’s immediate protest of Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to sign the new Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law cannot but raise renewed concerns.

Executive Secretary Eduardo asserts the position of Manila quite boldly:
We are sending the message to the whole world that we are affirming our national sovereignty and protecting our national interest. This is the right thing to do. “Whatever problems we may have [on the contested territories], whatever action will have to be contested, will have to be done with the code of conduct agreed upon by the [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and China

Ermita is apparently referring to this key stipulation in the Code:
4. The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;5. The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

Taking Malacanang’s position at face value, it may be that Mrs. Arroyo is convinced fully that she has done the right thing.

I will grant her that, given that she still has 4 months left in her term.
But as an ordinary Filipino I am asking myself what will happen if China, given its previous wrangles with other countries who also claim parts of South China Sea (notably Vietnam and Taiwan), takes military action against the Philippines?


Information BureauCommunist Party of the Philippines
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.

Vietnamese controlled islands in Spratly Group and Kalayaan Islands Group

Malaysia's occupied island in the Spratly Group

Chinese Taiwan occupied island in the Philippine's Kalayaan Islands .

Some of China's occupied islands in the Spratly Group and Kalayaan Islands Group.

Articles about Spratly islands, Kalayaan Islands Group, and the Philippine Baseline Law

The New Philippine Baseline Law and the Spratlys Dispute


PGMA signs RP Archipelagic Baseline Law


Arroyo's new baseline is a sellout to China


A position paper By: Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV


Bickering over the Spratlys




The Spratly Islands Dispute in the South China Sea:
Problems, Policies, and Prospects for Diplomatic


The Spratly Deal - Selling out Philippine sovereignty.


Palace eyes U-turn on Spratly Deal 2


Spratly Islands



Philippine Baseline Law

Philippines For Sale - part 2 of 3
Philippines for Sale - part 3 of 3


  1. Many countries are claiming Spratly islands like Philippines, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and China. I think it's better if they will just divide those islands to stop the dispute between them.

  2. Spratly islands is really a wonderful place that rich in natural resources. That's why there are lots of countries that are claiming it to gain the benefits. This issue is getting harder as time goes by, and I'm hoping that this will end in a peaceful way.

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