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Nansha Islands and Huangyan Island Have Never Been Philippine Territory
2016/05/24

I. The territorial scope of the Philippines is determined by a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of Peace of Paris between the United States and Spain signed in 1898, Treaty between the Kingdom of Spain and the United States of America for Cession of Outlying Islands of the Philippines (Treaty of Washington) signed in 1900 and Convention between the United States of America and Great Britain Delimiting Boundary between the Philippine Archipelago and the State of North Borneo signed in 1930, none of which incorporated China's Nansha Islands and Huangyan Island in the Philippine territory. Before the 1980s, the Philippine constitution adhered to the territorial scope delimited by the above treaties.

II. The Philippines began to covet some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands in the 1940s and 1950s, so it has put forth a number of false theories such as "trust territory of the allied forces", "terra nullius of Nansha" and "geographical proximity". It officially made sovereignty claims upon some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands in the 1970s and unlawfully occupied eight of them including Mahuan Dao and Siling Jiao. In 1978, the Philippines promulgated the No.1596 Presidential Decree, whereby it unlawfully named some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands the so-called "Kalayaan Island Group", and claimed "the area where the concerned South China Sea islands and reefs are located doesn't belong to any country according to law. In view of historical connections, realistic needs and the effective occupation and control established according to international laws, the Philippines has sovereignty over them". This unlawful action actually indicated that the Philippines had never taken Nansha Islands as its own territory.

III. The Philippines didn't make any open and explicit sovereignty claim upon Huangyan Island for a long time. In his statement about Huangyan Island in 1997, the then Philippine President Ramos only said that since the island was in the Philippine exclusive economic zone, the Philippines had sovereign rights there, but didn't mention any sovereign claim on the island itself. In April 2012, the Philippines unlawfully detained Chinese fishermen and fishing ships in Huangyan Island, and in its response to China's strong representations, the Philippine foreign ministry made a statement on April 18 that claimed the island as Philippine territory and that its sovereignty over the island stemmed from its long-term "effective occupation" and "effective jurisdiction" over it. The "long term", as put by the Philippines, can date back to the period of colonization before its independence, and it also listed other actions to endorse the so-called "effective occupation" and "effective jurisdiction".

According to international law, whether occupation is effective depends on whether the action reflects sovereignty, or whether the sovereign authority at the time had the will of occupation. The Philippines became an independent nation in 1946, so whether its action before independence reflected sovereignty depended on the will of its colonizers - Spain and the U.S. Unfortunately for the Philippines, neither of those two countries made sovereign claims over Huangyan Island, so the action was not taken "in sovereign capacity" and therefore could not endorse "effective occupation" and "effective jurisdiction". Moreover, China established its sovereignty over Huangyan Island a long time ago, and the activities carried out by Spain and the U.S. in that area could be suspected of encroaching upon China's rights and interests. After the Philippines was independence in 1946, it raised flag and built lighthouse on Huangyan Island and took it as a shooting range in military exercises. At that time, China had recovered the South China Sea islands from Japan and exercised sovereignty over them again in light of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration, so the actions on the Philippine part violated China's sovereignty and had no legal force according to international laws.

IV. Any sovereign claim made by the Philippines over Nansha Islands and Huangyan Island, no matter what basis it put forth, is unlawful and invalid. It cannot change the fact that China has the sovereignty over South China Sea islands and its surrounding waters.

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