The Philippines began to lay its claim over the Spratly Islands in 1970s. The Philippines claims the western section of the Spratlys, or the "Kalayaan Isaland Group" as called by the Philippines. That encompasses 53 islands, reefs, shoals cays, rocks and atolls with 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 include Flat Island (Feixin Dao in Chinese, Patag as the Philippines renamed it), Nansha Island (Mahuan Dao, Lawak), West York Island (Xiyue Dao, Likas), Lankiam Cay (Shuanghuan Shazhou, Panata), Loita Island (Nanyue Dao, Kota), and Commodore Reef (Siling Jiao, 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 claims 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 protests 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 Spratly Islands obviously were not within the Philippine boundary as stated by the Treaty Limits.
During the Second World War, Japan occupied both the Paracels (Paracel Islands) and Spratlys in 1939 shortly after they controlled Hainan Island. The Japanese used Itu Aba 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 established Philippine government Foreign Minister Qurino advocated on 23 July 1946 that the new Southern Islands (a term used by the Japanese for all the islands in the South China Sea) should be given to his country. This was the first indication of the interests in the Spratly Islands from the Philippines government.
In April 1949 , the Philippines sent its navy to explore the Spratlys. An article published in Manila Bulletin on May 15 1950 said that the Philippine government should occupy the Spratly Islands together with the United States because it was closer to Palawan compared with China and Vietnam. On May 17, the Philippine President Quirino said that if the Chinese Kuomingtang (Nationalist Party) troops really occupied the Spratlys, then 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 and 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 well 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 Spratlys [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 the Itu Aba Island "fired on a boat carrying a Philippine...