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Manila charting a dangerous new course

Publication Date : 06-06-2012

 

The Philippines has desperately tried to bolster its untenable claim to Huangyan Island with some old maps.

According to a Philippine Foreign Ministry website article on April 28, a map drawn by a missionary and published in 1734 was one of the first maps that marked Huangyan Island as part of the Philippines. And another map drawn by Spanish explorers in 1792 and published in 1808 in Madrid showed their route of arriving and sailing around the island, which is better known as Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines.

Since the Philippines wants to talk about maps, let's talk about maps.

The maps cited by the Philippines were the work of foreign missionaries and colonial explorers. They were visitors to the region and the maps are personal and unofficial. They do not in any way represent any government position.

If such "evidence" holds water, then the Philippines could probably lay claim to many more islands. The world would become a madhouse if all countries followed the Philippines' example and claimed the territories of other countries based on old maps drawn up by individuals for their own convenience.

Perhaps the Philippines is suggesting that if China can use historical maps to prove its sovereignty over Huangyan Island, so can it.

But China can present a greater number of official maps to show its ownership of Huangyan Island. Even a Philippine citizen who wrote to Manila Standard Today recognised the fact that China discovered Huangyan Island and drew it in a map as early as 1279 during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

He said, "The 'old maps' being relied upon by our Department of Foreign Affairs in its spurious claim on the same territory were drawn up only in 1820, or 541 years after China's."

More importantly, the official maps published by successive Chinese governments have always marked Huangyan Island as the territory of China. They were not drawn as a matter of convenience, but to facilitate government.

None of international treaties that define the extent of the Philippine territory includes Huangyan Island as part of its territory. Apparently, the "old maps" referred to by the Philippines had no validity when these treaties were being drawn up.

What's more, for a long time, the official maps of the Philippines, or maps published with official sanction, all marked Huangyan Island, or Scarborough Shoal, as lying outside the territorial limit of the country.

What about the maps published by the Philippines in more recent years? In 2006, the national map (1:1,700,000) published by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines, clearly marked Huangyan Island as outside the limit of the Philippine territory. The same is true of The Map of The Philippines (1:1,500,000) published in 2010 and The Political Map of the Philippines (1:4,250,000) published and revised from 2008 to 2011.

All these maps are certified by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines, and undoubtedly represent the official position of the Philippine government.

With no exception, these maps clearly and explicitly mark Huangyan Island outside the territorial limit of the Philippines. Obviously, the Philippines does not see Huangyan Island as its own territory.

One can't help but ask: Why does the Philippines keep spreading the fallacy that Huangyan Island has belonged to the Philippines since ancient times, when its own officially sanctioned maps clearly prove this isn't the case?

Such behavior amounts to sophistry and downright robbery, and while ordinary people may call it "the act of a gangster", at the official level it should be called an act of aggression.

The author is a Beijing-based scholar.

 

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