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The 1734 Murillo Velarde Map

Although China refused to participate in the South China Sea Arbitration at The Hague, China submitted to the arbitral tribunal a Position Paper. China stated in its Position Paper that Philippine territory is governed by three international treaties, one of which is the little known 1900 Treaty of Washington.

In recognizing and accepting that three treaties define and delineate Philippine territory, China’s Position Paper quoted verbatim Article 1 of the 1935 Philippine Constitution: “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 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 the treaty concluded between the United States and Great Britain on the second day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty, and all territory over which the present Government of the Philippine Islands exercises jurisdiction.”

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The purpose of China’s Position Paper was to show that Philippine territory is limited to the islands enclosed by the polygonal lines drawn in the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal are clearly outside the western side of the polygonal lines of the Treaty of Paris. China’s Position Paper concludes, “[T]he territory of the Philippines was confined to the Philippine Islands, having nothing to do with any of China’s maritime features in the South China Sea.” Under its nine-dash line, China claims as its territory the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese, however, failed to read carefully the text of the Treaty of Washington.

When the Americans surveyed the Philippine Islands after signing the Treaty of Paris, they found out that there were many islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago lying outside the polygonal lines of the Treaty of Paris. Some islands in the Batanes, Scarborough Shoal, “Los Bajos de Paragua” or the Spratly Islands, and other islands were outside the lines of the Treaty of Paris. The Americans asked the Spaniards to sign another treaty clarifying that the cession in the Treaty of Paris included all other islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago even if lying outside the lines of the Treaty of Paris. The Spaniards refused to sign a clarificatory treaty.

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The Spaniards, however, relented after the Americans offered to pay an additional US$100,000 on top of the US$20 million that the Americans paid the Spaniards for the Treaty of Paris. Thus, the Treaty of Washington was signed, wherein Spain clarified: “Spain relinquishes to the United States all title and claim of title, which she may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of that Treaty xxx and agrees that all such islands shall be comprehended in the cession of the Archipelago as fully as if they had been expressly included within those lines.”

Clearly, under the Treaty of Washington, Spain ceded to the US “all title and claim of title xxx to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines” of the Treaty of Paris. What are those islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago lying outside the lines of the Treaty of Paris? The frame of reference could only be the 1734 Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas map made by Father Pedro Murillo Velarde, which was the only official map of Philippine territory during the Spanish colonial regime. The 1734 map clearly shows that the Spratly Islands, named Los Bajos de Paragua in the map, as well as Scarborough Shoal, named Panacot in the map, were part of “las Islas Filipinas” constituting the Philippine archipelago during the Spanish regime.

Having recognized and accepted the Treaty of Washington, China is legally bound by its provision that Spain ceded to the US “all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines” of the Treaty of Paris. And the best evidence of what those outlying islands are is the 1734 map of Father Pedro Murillo Velarde.

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TAGS: Antonio T. Carpio, Crosscurrents, Maritime Dispute, Murillo Velarde map, West Philippine Sea
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