Philippine Claim to the Spratly Islands Group*

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  • Topic: Philippines, Spratly Islands, South China Sea
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PHILIPPINE CLAIM TO THE SPRATLY ISLANDS GROUP*
Introduction
The Philippines is a mid-ocean archipelago consisting of more than 7,100 islands some of which remain unnamed. The islands portion of the archipelago lies along some 1,150 miles between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. It is separated from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel, from Indonesia by the Celebes Sea,. from North Borneo (Sabah) by narrow passages, channels and straits, from the Asian mainland by the South China Sea and from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Island by the Philippine Sea which is an arm of the Pacific Ocean. As such mid-ocean archipelago, some of its islands lie at a distance of more than twelve nautical miles from each other. For economic, fiscal, political, but more especially security reasons, the Philippines has been sensitive to the question of what constitutes its island waters and maritime boundaries, and has consistently been assertive of claims relative to them. It .therefore advances the notion of itself as an island-studded water with both land and water forming a composite and integral unity making up territory.4 The legal foundations of such claims are recognition by treaty, devolution of treaty rights, and historic title. Accordingly, since its first opportunity to officially define its national territory, the Philippines has consistently claimed boundaries that cover expanses of water greater than those traditionally recognized by international law in favor of non-archipelagic states. Thus, Article I of the Philippine Constitution of 1935 provided: The Philippines comprises all the territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris concluded between the United States and Spain on the tenth day of December, eighteen hundred and ninety eight, the limits of which are set forth in Article III of said treaty, together with all the islands embraced in the treaty concluded at Washington, between the United States and Spain on the seventh day of November, nineteen hundred, and in the treaty concluded between the United States and Great Britain on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty, all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction.

The pertinent provision of the Treaty of Paris relied upon as the original source of the claim to national boundaries reads as follows: A line running from west to east along or near the twentieth parallel of north latitude, and through the middle of the navigable channel of Bachi, from the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) to the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degree meridian' of longitude east of Greenwich, thence along the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the parallel of four degrees and forty five minutes (4°45') north latitude, thence along the parallel' of four degrees and forty five minutes (4 °45') north latitude to its intersection with the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119°35') east of, Greenwich, thence along the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119°35') east of Greenwich to the parallel of latitude seven degrees and forty minutes (7°40') north, thence along the parallel of latitude of seven degrees and forty minutes (7°40') north to its intersection with the one hundred and sixteenth (116th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence by a direct line to the intersection of the tenth (1Oth) degree parallel of north latitude with the one hundred and eighteenth (l18th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, and thence along the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the point of the beginning.

It is asserted that the above-mentioned treaty and subsequent related treaties recognized and confirmed the same limits of Philippine territory, and the Philippines has always acted conformably to...
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