The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Two days before China comes out with its official maps that highlight territories in the South China Sea, which are also being claimed by the Philippines, Spanish Ambassador to Manila Jorge Domecq said his country was willing to turn over to the Philippines some 70 of the latter's historical maps.
Domecq made the announcement on Tuesday at the sidelines of the sixth Tribuna España-Filipinas, a high-level dialogue between the two countries held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City.
During the event, Domecq was asked what Spain could contribute to strengthen the Philippines' claim over the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), given that Madrid and Manila shared hundreds of years of historical heritage.
"I think that is something that you probably have to dig into the archives (for)… I can send it to you, where you have around 70 maps, which are a private collection, and then you can draw your conclusion," Domecq replied.
Sen. Edgardo Angara also owns a vast collection of Philippine maps dating back to Spanish colonial times, which include an old map showing that Scarborough (Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc) Shoal belongs to the Philippines. China refers to the rock fomation as Huangyan Island.
According to Angara, it is clear that the shoal was part of the Philippines' cartography during the Spanish colonial area. The senator said there is a map made in 1734 that shows that Panatag was already part of the Phillippine Islands, which was then under Spanish colonial rule.
China has been firm in its stand that it owns the entire South China Sea, citing its historical inheritance and the nine-dash-line on its ancient map.
But a senior official from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said that with or without the old maps from Spain, the Philippines would win its case against China.
Case before UNCLOS
Earlier this month, the Philippines filed a case against China over its excessive territorial claims before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
"China’s claim is not based on the Unclos, it is based allegedly on some other laws. Ours is an entitlement, therefore legally, we have territorial sovereignty [over the West Philippine Sea]. So between the two of us, I don't have the burden of truth, you [China] have the burden of truth,” the senior DFA official told InterAksyon.com in an interview on Tuesday.
According to the DFA official, the Philippines has full rights over the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone provided by the Unclos.
“We are the one who have an entitlement, theirs are [just] claims. We don't have to prove ourselves...the law already proved it. They are the ones with a claim that's not based on a written law, but on their own concept of laws, so why put a burden on me [Philippines]?,” the official said.
China is set to come out with its new official maps showing the 130 islands and islets of the South China Sea or the nine-dash-line claims, including the islands and waters that the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia also claim.
The new maps, which for the first time put the disputed islands in South China Sea in equal scale to that of the Chinese mainland, are published by China's national map publisher SinoMaps Press and will be available to the public by end of January this year. The maps also feature islands in East China Sea being claimed by Japan.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez on Tuesday said the department was still waiting for the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to verify the existence of the new map highlighting the disputed territories.
“As we have said, we are still asking our embassy in Beijing for verification regarding the map and the extent of the coverage of the map,” Hernandez told reporters.
He said the DFA would "act accordingly" as soon as it sees the new China maps and the extent of their coverage.
If the maps cover parts of the Philippine territory the DFA will again "file a protest" against China’s action, according to Hernandez.