The Philippines' Illegal Claims in the Spratlys (Spratly
--The Lies and the Groundless Invasion into China's Spratly Islands of South China
Table of Contents
1. Area of present claims
2. Brief history of the Filipino interest in the Spratlys
3. Was the Spratlys res nullius for Tomas Cloma to claim as his private discove
4. Is geography a legal basis for a sovereignty claim?
5. Is security a legal basis for the Filipino claim?
1. Area of Present Philippine Claims
The Philippines began to lay its claim over the Spratly Islands in 1970s. The Philippin
claims the western section of the Spratlys, or the "Kalayaan Isaland Group" as called
the Philippines. That encompasses 53 islands, reefs, shoals cays, rocks and atolls wi
an area of 64,976 square miles. It is about 450 nautical miles from Manila and 230
nautical miles from Palawan. The Thitu Island (renamed as Pag-asa/Pagasa by the
Philippines) is the biggest island and the Philippines occupied this island in the 1970s
Along with Thitu Island, other islands in the Spratlys occupied by the Philippines inclu
Flat Island (Feixin Dao in Chinese, Patag as the Philippines renamed it), Nansha Isla
(Mahuan Dao, Lawak), West York Island (Xiyue Dao, Likas), Lankiam Cay (Shuangh
Shazhou, Panata), Loita Island (Nanyue Dao, Kota), and Commodore Reef (Siling Jia
Rizal Reef). 
2. Brief History of the Filipino Interest in the Spratlys and its Development
Out of its economic and strategic motivations, the French government made formal c
to the Spratlys in the early 1930s. On July 25 1933 the French Foreign Ministry
announced the occupation of the nine islets of the Spratlys and asserted French
sovereignty over them for the first time. The French action brought immediate protest
from China. At that time, the Philippines was a colony of America. Some Filipino
congressman said the nine islands should belong to the Philippines according to the
Treaty of Paris. However his suggestion was ignored by Washington since the Spratl
Islands obviously were not within the Philippine boundary as stated by the Treaty Lim
During the Second World War, Japan occupied both the Paracels (Paracel Islands) a
Spratlys in 1939 shortly after they controlled Hainan Island. The Japanese used Itu A
Island (Taiping Dao) as a submarine base and a springboard for its invasion of the
Philippines. At the end of the Pacific War in 1945, the Japanese forces on the South
China Sea surrendered to the representatives of China. [1,p7-8]. The newly establish
Philippine government Foreign Minister Quiriño advocated on 23 July 1946 that the n
Southern Islands (a term used by the Japanese for all the islands in the South China
should be given to his country. This was the first indication of the interests in the Spra
Islands from the Philippines government.
In April 1949 , the Philippines sent its navy to explore the Spratlys. An article publishe
Manila Bulletin on May 15 1950 said that the Philippine government should occupy th
Spratly Islands together with the United States because it was closer to Palawan
compared with China and Vietnam. On May 17, the Philippine President Quiriño said
if the Chinese Kuomingtang (Nationalist Party) troops really occupied the Spratlys, th
Philippine didn't need to occupy them. However, if the islands fell into the communist
enemy's hand, the Philippine security is threatened. So he created this theory that the
Spratlys should belong to the nearest country according to international law. And the
Philippines is the nearest.
In 1956 Tomas Cloma together with his brothers and 40 crew explored the Spratlys a
claimed to have "discovered" and occupied 53 islands and reefs of the Spratlys. They
proclaimed "formal ownership" over them and renamed these islands and reefs the
Kalayaan (Freedomland) Island Group.
The Philippine act was immediately met with protests from PRC, Taiwan, Saigon as w
as France. The PRC denounced Tomas Cloma's alleged "discovery" as totally
groundless. Manila responded to Taipei and Saigon that it had no claims on the Spra
[1, p11]. Since then Taiwan sent troops to the Islands to patrol the Spratly Islands and
stationed on Itu Aba Island to prevent further such allegations.
In early July 1971, the Philippine government alleged that the Taiwanese troops on th
Aba Island "fired on a boat carrying a Philippine congressman". After this the Philippin
government announced on July 10 1971 that "it had sent a diplomatic note to Taipei
asking that the Chinese garrison be withdrawn from Itua Aba". Manila stated that 53
islands and reefs once occupied by Tomas Cloma should belong to the Philippines,
because the area was terra nullius at the time of its occupation and was "acquired
according to the modes of acquisition recognized under international law, among whi
are occupation and effective administration".  Meanwhile the Philippines sent its na
to occupy Thitu Island and Nanshan Island.
In April 1972, the Philippine government incorporated the "Kalayaan" group into Pala
Province as a municipality.
In February 1974, the Philippines government stated that the Philippines forces had
occupied five islets of the Spratlys. The Philippines government justified its occupatio
the Spratly Islands as "the strategic importance of the Kalayaan area to the Philippine
By 1978 the Philippines had occupied two more islands, and later the Philippines furt
occupied Siling Jiao (Commodore Reef), in 1980 they occupied Liyue Tan (Reed Ban
On June 11, 1978, Filipino president Marcos signed a Presidential Decree 1596 whic
claimed the Kalayaan group. The 1978 decree omitted Spratly Island and include
Amboyna Cay which was not claimed by Cloma. It also said that "some countries clai
some parts of this area but they had given up and thus the claims are not valid
On July 17, 1978, a Presidential Decree 1599 was issued, proclaiming that the Kalay
Group was within Philippine EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).
3. Was the Spratlys res nullius before any Filipino claims?
The Philippines base their claims of sovereignty over the Spratlys on the issues of re
nullius. The definition of res nullius is "A thing which has no owner or A thing which h
been abandoned by its owner is as much res nullius as if it had never belonged to an
Japan unconditionally surrendered in 1945 after their defeat in the World War II. Tow
the end of 1946, the Chinese government sent a naval task force consisting of four
warships to the Spratlys and Paracels to execute demonstrative possessor acts on th
spot. The task force sailed from Guangdong (Canton) on December 9, 1946. The two
ships Taiping and Zhongye set course for the Spratlys and after 3 days' sailing, they
reached Itu Aba Island, the principal island of the Spratlys on the morning of Decemb
12, 1946. They immediately sent telegraphs to Nanjing to report on their arrival and la
stationed on the Itu Aba Island. The Itu Aba Island was surveyed. The task force also
reached and surveyed other Spratly Islands including Nanyue Island, Thitu Island, No
Danger Reef etc. The symbols of Japanese sovereignty were removed and a Sovere
Stone Marker was placed on the Itu Aba Island. They also held a take-over ceremony
In December 1947 Territorial Administration Section of Ministry of Internal Affairs
published a list of South China Sea Islands Names and a Map of South China Sea
Islands. The Itu Aba Island is renamed to Taiping Island, the Thitu Island is renamed
Zhongye Island, the commander’s name of the task force is also used as a name of a
Sand Cay (Dunqian Shazhou).
So has China ever abandoned her ownership over the Spratlys? No. The Chinese
government has never relinquished its claim to these islands. After the "Kingdom of
Humantiy and Republic of Songhrati-Morac-Meads" issue Taiwan has restored the
garrison on Taiping Island and the navy has frequently patrolled the Spratlys.
Just like what is expressed in Taipei's response to the Philippines: The world has bee
notice for years and years that China has a garrison on the Islands. It is childishly nai
entertain any notion that Cloma and associates' claim to "right of discovery" can serve
the legal basis for Philippine government's claiming and the actions as announced by
President Marcos. The pursuit of an private and official claim to the Spratly Islands sh
be held to be a violation of international law and a provocation to China.[1, p71]
4. Is Geography Proximity a legal Basis for Philippine's claim in the Spratlys?
There is no international law saying geographical proximity can be used here to justif
claims in the Kalayaan Island Group. If we use the proximity basis, many isolated isla
in Sulu Sea are much closer to Borneo than to the Philippines, should the Philippines
these islands to Malaysia or Brunei?
5. Is National Security a legal basis for the Filipino Claim?
If Philippines national security can serve as a legal basis for its claim in the Spratly
Islands. Does that mean the Philippines will just invade any other nation's sovereign l
if they feel that they are not secure?