By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – National Security Adviser (NSA) Eduardo Año on Wednesday slammed the China Coast Guard’s claims that Beijing has an “indisputable sovereignty” over the Bajo de Masinloc (also known as Scarborough Shoal) and its adjacent waters, reiterating that the waterway is located inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
He added that Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of Philippine territory, being part of the municipality of Masinloc in Zambales province.
“It is located 124 nautical miles west of Luzon mainland and is well within the 200-nautical mile EEZ and the Philippine continental shelf,” Año said in a statement.
Under international law, Año said Manila exercises sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Bajo de Masinloc, as well as the waters and continental shelf surrounding it.
He added that it is an important fishing ground for local fishermen of the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and Pangasinan.
“China’s repeated claims of sovereignty over Bajo de Masinloc have no basis in international law or in fact. International law is clear. China cannot, therefore, lawfully exercise sovereignty over it. As clearly stated by the 2016 arbitral award, UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) superseded any ‘historic rights’ as claimed by China. Therefore, China cannot claim entitlements in areas of the ‘nine-dashed line,’ now ‘10-dashed line,’ that exceed UNCLOS limits,” Año said.
He also pointed out that based on early Spanish maps of the Philippines, including the 1734 Pedro Murillo Velarde Map, the Bajo de Masinloc was always part of the country’s territory.
He added when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States under the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the Scarborough Reef was included in the census of islands done by the US government.
“This was affirmed under the Treaty of Washington of 1900 where Spain ceded all other islands and places to which it had title or claim of title even if not within the lines drawn by the Treaty of Paris,” he said.
Since then, he said the Philippines has always exercised jurisdiction over the shoal by setting up light stations and navigational aids, regular visits by the Philippine Coast Guard, law enforcement operations and geodetic surveys.
“Since the Philippines exercises sovereign rights over Bajo de Masinloc and its surrounding waters under international law, only the Philippines has the authority to exercise maritime law enforcement functions to the exclusion of other countries. No amount of statements or illegal actions by other states can alter these facts,” Año noted. (PNA)