Permanent Court of Arbitration (1928)
2 U.N. Rep. Int’l Arbitral Awards 829
The Island of Palmas is about halfway between the Philippines (formerly under Spanish control) and the Nanusa Island group (formerly of the Dutch East Indies class). In the Treaty of Paris (1898), the island lied within the boundaries of the Philippines ceded by Spain to the US. Arguments
US: As the successor of Spain, who was the first to discover the island, the US has title to sovereignty.
Netherlands: Discovery by Spain is not yet proved, nor is any other form of acquisition. Even if Spain had such a title, the title has been lost because the Netherlands have possessed and exercised sovereignty since at least 1677, when the East India Company entered conventions with the two princes of the main island in the chain. Such sovereignty has been displayed over the last two centuries.
Procedural History The two states agreed to appoint the Swiss Jurist, Max Huber, to arbitrate the case.
When two States claim title to sovereignty over, does the state with earliest claim win sovereignty?
Holdings & Court Order
No, it is not sufficient to establish that a title was validly acquired at a specific moment, but it must be shown that sovereignty was held continuously and existed at the moment for which is critical to the decision of the dispute.
In current international law, titles of acquisition are based on an act of effective apprehension (such as occupation or conquest) or cession. Doctrine recognizes that the continuous and peaceful display of sovereignty is as good as title. This display must be open and public.
The Spanish, and by sucession, American, claim is based on being the first to discover the island. This is based on reports that an island was seen (which based on geographical data, is probably the one in the class), although there is no mention of landing on or contacting the natives. Until