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WPS is part of Pacific Ocean

02:46 AM May 14, 2014

There is a school of thought that says the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is not anymore part of the Pacific Ocean and, by inference, so is the South China Sea. If that were so, then the United States is no longer obligated under Article V of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to come to the aid of the Philippines in the event the latter comes under armed attack from foreign aggressors. What does the article say? “For purposes of ARTICLE IV, an armed attack on either of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean, its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

WPS and South China Sea belong to the Pacific Ocean under the category of Marginal Seas.

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Wikipedia.org defines a marginal sea as an area of water that is a “partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean.” By way of an example is the Indian Ocean, which shares its borders with seven marginal seas, such as the Arabian Sea which covers an area of 1,491,126 square miles.

Another is the Andaman Sea (231,661 sq m). There is also the Bay of Bengal (838,614 sq m). Others that belong to an ocean are the Red Sea, Java Sea, Persian Gulf and Sea of Zanj. Atlantic Ocean has at least eleven marginal seas like the English Channel, Gulf of Mexico, Carribean Sea, and the North Sea, to name a few.

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The Pacific Ocean, among others, has the Sea of Okhotsk, Tasman Sea, Celebes Sea, and East and South China Seas. In the case of WPS, the International Hydrographic Organization has defined the Philippine Sea as “that area of the North Pacific Ocean off the Eastern coasts of the Philippine Islands, bounded as follows: On the West” (where the hotly contested islands are located—Second Thomas Shoal, locally-named Ayungin; and Scarborough Shoal aka Bajo de Masinloc)—“By the Eastern limits of the East Indian Archipelago, South China Sea and the Eastern China Sea. On the North—By the Southeast coast of Kyushu, the Southern and Eastern limits of the Inland Sea and the south coast of Honshu Island. On the East—By the ridge joining Japan to the Bonin Volcano and Ladrones (Mariana) Islands.

“All these being included in the Philippine Sea, and on the South—By a line joining Guam, Yap, Pelew (Palau) and Halmahera Islands.”

Thus, the islands and shoals (“rocks” as President Aquino adverted to them during the joint press conference with US President Barack Obama in Malacañang) that lie within the expanse of the South China Sea and the 200 nautical miles off the West Philippine Sea’s exclusive economic zone, form part of the marginal seas subcategory and as such are very much a part of the North Pacific Ocean, shattering the so-called gray area shrouding the Pacific boundaries.

—TED P. PEÑAFLOR II,

Subic Bay Freeport,

[email protected]

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TAGS: Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, mutual defense treaty, Pacific Ocean, South China Sea, West Philippine Sea
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