Policies, activities and history of the Philippines in Spratly Islands

:"This article discusses the policies, activities and history of the Republic of the Philippines in the Spratly Islands. It also discusses the general feelings of Filipino people about the issue, causing this article to discuss some anti-Chinese sentiments a significant fraction of Filipinos have. Non-Filipino viewpoints regarding Philippine occupation of some Spratly islands, whether positive or negative towards the Philippines, are not included in this article. This article uses the Philippine names, seconded by the international names on the first use, for most of the features."


The Philippines, along with Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, is one of the claimant countries in the disputed Spratly chain. Currently the Philippines is occupying nine features (seven islands, three reefs):

As a comparison, Vietnam occupies six islands, seventeen reefs and three banks. The Republic of China (Taiwan) has one island and one reef. Malaysia has one artificial island and five reefs. The Peoples Republic of China has eight reefs.

Also, the Philippines has some features that are "virtually occupied ". These are features that lie in very close proximity to Philippine-occupied features and that can be seen within the horizon. (A 15 meter-height vision gives about convert|9|mi|km|0 of horizon distance): North Reef, Sandy Cay or Extension Reef, Loaita Nan and Loaita Cay.

Furthermore, the features that lie to the east of the 116°E meridian, though not occupied, are largely controlled by the Philippines. This is the region that is near Palawan with the farthest feature being just convert|100|mi|km|0 away. Though the Philippines has enough muscle to occupy these features without receiving much protest from other claimant nations, it has decided to just concentrate its forces on Palawan. Philippine military officials often insist that these features are very near Palawan, labeling it as an "obvious" territory of the Philippines. Instead of building forces on the features, airfields and naval bases were built on Palawan’s west coast. There are many Filipino fishermen in this area. The Camago-Malampaya gas field is also located here.

:"For a comprehensive list of the Spratly islands with accompanying discussion, please see Spratly Islands."


tate of Kalayaan

The Philippine claim over the Spratly Islands began in May 1956, when Admiral Tomas Cloma, owner of a Philippine fishing vessel company and director of the Philippine Maritime Institute, declared the founding of the new state called "Kalayaan" (Eng.: freedom). He found the islands while he, with his brothers and 40 crew, was adventuring in the vast South China Sea. Observing that there was no human settlement nor national flag present on them, he decided to establish the Kalayaan state. He posted a document in English, entitled "Notice to the Whole World", on all features he claimed. His claim comprises about fifty features among the Spratly chain. [cite paper
author = Ji Guoxing
title = Maritime Jurisdiction in the Three China Seas: Options For Equitable Settlement
publisher = Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation
date = October 1995
url = http://repositories.cdlib.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1051&context=igcc
format = PDF
accessdate = 2008-03-08
] His declaration was met with violent reactions from other countries like China and South Vietnam, as well as the European countries of France, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, who were representing their colonies in Southeast Asia. While the Philippines did not endorse the new state to the world, it acknowledged it as the true sovereign state. In September 1956, after Taiwan occupied the largest island, Ligao Island (Itu Aba), Tomas Cloma decided to cede and sell all the territories of his state to the Philippines for just one peso, which was equivalent to US$0.50 at that time.

Philippine occupation

The Philippines sent troops to the Spratly chain for the first time in 1968. It prioritized large islands such as Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Likas (West York) Island, Parola Island (Northeast Cay), Kota (Loaita) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, and Pugad Island (Southwest Cay). Two small islands, Patag (Flat) Island and Panata Island (Lankiam Cay), were also occupied. Both are less than a hectare in size.

To further the claim of the Philippines on the island group, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, on June 11, 1978, formally annexed the Kalayaan Islands by virtue of Presidential Decree No.1596 to the Palawan.cite journal
last = Go
first = Miriam Grace A.
title = Making a Claim
journal = Newsbreak Philippines
location = Manila
date = 2003-02-02
url = http://www.newsbreak.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3912&Itemid=88889051
accessdate = 2008-03-08

Several years after the Philippines had occupied its latest island, it had been apparent that Vietnam is not content in only occupying islands. Vietnam started occupying many reefs. As of 2008, Vietnam has about 20 non-island occupied features. Some of these are very close to Philippine-occupied islands. Due to this pressure of losing fishing area in South China Sea, the Philippines decided to occupy at least two reefs. One is Rizal (Commodore) Reef which does not belong in the northeast region. It is near to many Vietnamese and Malaysian occupied reefs, thus serving as a good sentry against eastward expansion of Vietnam and northward expansion of Malaysia (see the map below). Another one is Balagtas (Irving) Reef. Unlike Rizal Reef, Balagtas Reef lies at the center of the northeast region, making islands occupied by the Philippines seem to be closer to each other. If this was occupied by other country, Philippine-occupied islands would have a hard time reaching each other.

outhwest Cay invasion

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= Southwest Cay Invasion
date= 1975
place= Southwest Cay
result= Vietnamese Capture of Southwest Cay
combatant1=flagicon|Philippines Philippines
combatant2=flagicon|South Vietnam South Vietnam
combatant3=flagicon|North Vietnam North Vietnam later as Vietnam (unified)
Southwest Cay, known as Pugad island in the Philippines, as (南子岛) Nanzi Dao in China and as Đảo Song Tử Tây in Vietnam, is an island that belongs to the Spratly chain. It was occupied by Philippine forces up to 1975 only when South Vietnam forces were able to invade the island. [The following references does not discuss the invasion of Pugad Island. Only short passages can be read that confirm Vietnam's take over of the island from the Philippines. Also, these references did not explicitly say that South Vietnam was the one which actually took over, before they were replaced by the unified Vietnam's forces. Some conflicts with the date of occupation are present among these references.
*cite journal
last = Doyo
first = Ma. Ceres P.
title = Spratlys on my mind
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-13
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080313-124370
accessdate = 2008-03-14

*cite journal
last = Bordadora
first = Norman
coauthors = TJ Burgonio
title = Lawmaker fears RP will lose out in race for Spratlys oil
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-11
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080311-123986
accessdate = 2008-03-20

*cite journal
last = Burgonio
first = TJ
title = Palace should explain Spratlys seismic survey--Golez
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-10
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080310-123932
accessdate = 2008-03-20

*cite journal
last = Dancel
first = Joshua
title = Viets not in RP part of Spratlys, says NSC chief
journal = Manila Times
location = Manila
date = 2002-08-31
url = http://ia341033.us.archive.org/3/items/VietsNotInRpPartOfSpratlysSaysNscChief/viet.pdf
accessdate = 2008-03-20

Southwest Cay is in the northern edge of the Spratly chain. It is within North Danger Reef which also contains the Philippine-occupied Northeast Cay (Parola Island), Vietnamese-occupied South Reef and unoccupied North Reef. Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay are just convert|1.75|mi|km away from each other. Each island can actually see the other within their respective horizons.

The invasion took place when all the Philippine soldiers guarding the island of Pugad left to attend to the birthday party of their commanding officer who is based on nearby Parola Island. The storm that day is also believed to have persuaded all the soldiers to regroup temporarily on Parola island. A report also came out saying that South Vietnamese officials managed to send Vietnamese prostitutes to the birthday party to lure the Filipino soldiers guarding Pugad Island. It was said to be a "present" to the Philippine commander for his birthday and as a move of South Vietnamese forces to befriend all Filipino soldiers guarding the Spratlys. Philippine soldiers did not expect that South Vietnam would resort to foul play since both Philippines and South Vietnam, together with the United States, were allies in the Vietnam War. This tactic is believed to be the reason why South Vietnamese forces knew that the Filipino soldiers left the island, an action that is usually kept confidential.

After the party and after the weather cleared out, the returning soldiers were surprised that a company of South Vietnamese soldiers were already in the island. The South Vietnamese flag replaced the Philippine flag flying in the pole created by Philippine soldiers themselves. The soldiers returned to Parola immediately for fear that Parola would be the next target. After higher-ups of the Philippines were informed about the situation, they instructed the troops based in Parola and Pagasa to stay on red alert status. For the following mornings, the only thing the Filipino soldiers could do in Parola was to "curse" while South Vietnamese sang their national anthem. Malacañang officials, who did not want to compromise the alliance while the Vietnam War was still being fought, decided to remain silent.

A few months later, the recently formed unified Vietnam (after North Vietnam successfully invaded South Vietnam) decided to remove all remaining South Vietnamese troops in the Spratlys and establish military control among the features. It was reported that dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers in Pugad Island swam all the way to Parola just to avoid being captured by North Vietnamese forces. It was then when Malacañang officials, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos, discussed how the Philippines could reclaim the island. It had been apparent that most of the officials (who treat the communists as a threat to the Philippine national security) want to attack Pugad to reclaim it. However, after an intelligence report came stating that the unified Vietnam had already built a huge concrete garrison within a few weeks, the officials dropped the plan and tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. However, this approach eventually died along the process making Pugad a Vietnamese-occupied island up to this day. This incident was confirmed in interviews with soldiers involved in an episode of the defunct "Magandang Gabi Bayan" (Eng.: Good Evening Nation) (MGB) of ABS-CBN.For ^"a", the following reference only includes some information on how the invasion took place and much of what is said in this subsection is based on the MGB episode. Disregard this note for ^"b", ^"c" and ^"d".
*cite journal
last = Bondoc
first = Jarius
title = Kalayaan: Where have all the soldiers gone?
journal = Philippine Star
location = Manila
date = 2005-07-06
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=202268&type=1
accessdate = 2008-03-20

Expansion of other claimants

By the end of the 1970's, the Philippines had occupied a total of eight islands and two reefs. These features, excluding Southwest Cay, are still occupied by the Philippines today. The Philippines has never occupied another feature after the 1970's until 1999. While other countries occupied most of the features they control now during that period, the Philippines has maintained not to occupy any features further. It is attributed to the Philippines' initiation for the cooperative development of the area. The Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, along with other ASEAN countries who can serve as investors, were already drawing a plan on a wide exploitation of the Spratly chain in the early 1980's when suddenly China became interested in the area. China began occupying features by mid-1980's causing the ASEAN plan to halt. The most controversial occupation of China is the Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in 1995 (See Mischief Reef for further discussion).

In 1999, Malaysia occupied Gabriela Silang Reef (Erica Reef) and Pawikan Reef (Investigator Shoal), causing the Philippines to protest further. Due to this pressure, with China's Mischief Reef just convert|130|mi|km off Palawan and Vietnam's Pigeon Reef and Malaysia's Investigator Shoal just convert|150|mi|km off Palawan, the Philippines decided to occupy Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Reef) in 1999. No structure is built on the reef. Soldiers stationed there take shelter at "BRP Sierra Madre", a Philippine naval ship that went aground in the reef shortly before the Philippines decided to occupy it.
*cite journal
last = Abaricia
first = Aimee
title = The Trip To Kalayaan
journal = The Philippine Star
pages = B–6
location = Manila
date = 2005-07-16
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=203755&type=1
accessdate = 2008-02-16

* [http://www.trends.com.ph/images/smart_philstar.jpgView scanned page] ] Together with Rizal Reef (Commodore Reef), Ayungin Reef can give the Philippines a sentry advantage in stopping other countries' occupation of features nearest to the Philippines (see map below).

China has also been reported seeking to establish another forward outpost, past Mischief Reef and closer to Palawan. Twice since 1998, it planted buoys on Sabina Shoal, just convert|82|mi|km off Palawan. Philippine Air Force planes have blasted the buoys out of the water. [cite journal
last = Bondoc
first = Jarius
title = After Spratlys, China out to claim Palawan
journal = The Philippine Star
date = 2001-04-04
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=18700&type=1
accessdate = 2008-02-20

China occupied only eight features. However, these features were strategic points in the area, making China able to assert its exploitation rights for the whole area. In contrast, the Philippines and Malaysia are limited to particular regions in the area, making these two countries incapable of contesting exploitation rights in other regions. In his essay contributed for TIME Asia in 1999, Professor Alex Magno of University of the Philippines pointed out that China is the main aggressor in the Spratly dispute. Magno, in particular, called on ASEAN to be watchful of China's actions in the South China Sea (Magno said it is very unlucky for ASEAN that the sea where the Spratly chain lies is named South China Sea, named after China). [cite journal
last = Magno
first = Alex
title = Naval Power sets off
journal = TIME Asia
volume = 154
issue = 12
publisher = TIME Asia (Hong Kong) Ltd.
date = 1999-07-27
url = http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/99/0927/spratly.html
accessdate = 2008-02-05
] Being one of the major consumers of Chinese goods and being adjacent to China itself, the ASEAN bloc is capable of crippling the Chinese economy, both through product boycotts and the possibility of peace instability. Even non-Spratly claiming ASEAN nations—Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar—are more supportive to the Vietnamese, Philippine, Malaysian and Bruneian claims than the Chinese claim. However, China today is beginning to engage itself in joint efforts to exploit the area. In particular, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam are already working on their second phase of drawing a joint exploitation plan.

In November 2002 the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" [Click [http://www.aseansec.org/13163.htm here] for the text of "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea".] was signed in an effort to ease tensions between the claimants. It stipulates all claimants to commit to the status quo and not to build any new structure in the disputed regions of Spratly. [cite paper
title = The Worrisome Situation of the South China Sea – China Facing the Stepped-up Military Infiltration by the U.S., Japan and India
publisher = United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission
date = 2004
url = http://www.uscc.gov/researchpapers/2004/southchinaseamilitary.php
accessdate = 2008-03-08

JMSU controversy

The Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) is a tripartite agreement between the Philippines, China and Vietnam to conduct seismic exploration in an area spanning 142,886 square kilometers west of Palawan, all of which are within Philippine territories (as defined by EEZ of UNCLOS and does not necessarily mean as accepted by China and Vietnam). More specifically it is an agreement between Philippine National Oil Company -Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation (PetroVietnam), that was signed in September 2004 and took effect in July 2005.cite journal
last = Ho
first = Abigail L.
coauthors = Juliet Labog-Javellana
title = Arroyo hit on Spratlys deal
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-07
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080307-123244
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] JMSU has already finished the first phase of the seismic exploration which lasted from September 1 to November 16, 2006, covering 11,000 line kilometers. A Chinese vessel conducted the survey, Vietnam processed the data gathered and this was interpreted by PNOC-EC in Manila. The second phase started in October 2007, covering 11,800 line kilometers. It was supposedly to end January 2008.cite journal
last = de Castro
first = Isagani Jr.
title = Spratlys project put on hold as Chinese ODA mess rages
journal = ABS-CBN News/Newsbreak
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-08
url = http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=111498
accessdate = 2008-03-09

A controversy broke out when Barry Wain, a researcher in the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, wrote an article in the January-February 2008 issue of the Hong-Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review saying that "it was largely a sellout on the part of the Philippines". [cite journal
last = Wain
first = Barry
title = Manila’s Bungle in The South China Sea
journal = Far Eastern Economic Review
location = Hong Kong
date = January-February 2008
url = http://www.viet-studies.info/kinhte/Manila_South_China_Sea.htm
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] Wain wrote:

"The Philippines ... has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area for study, including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China and Vietnam."
Regarding the area of exploration he stated:
" [The area] thrusts into the Spratlys and abuts Malampaya, a Philippine producing gas field. About one-sixth of the entire area, closest to the Philippine coastline, is outside the claims by China and Vietnam."

This prompted the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives (HR) to seek separate inquiries into the said agreement. Several senators alleged that "the agreement weakens the government's position in its claim over the disputed islands." Also, some alleged that it is a "precondition" set by China in exchange of some loan agreements. After signing the agreement, China has committed Philippines $2 billion USD a year in loans.cite journal
last = Uy
first = Veronica
coauthors = Maila Ager, Dona Pazzibugan, Norman Bordadora
title = Lawmakers seek Senate, House probes on Spratlys deal
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-07
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080307-123283
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is suspected by some legislators to be hiding the facts about the agreement. Malacañang rebuts by saying that the agreement is not hidden and is actually posted in a government website. [cite journal
title = Editorial: Slithering policy
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-08
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080308-123597
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] However, legislators are not convinced. They say Malacañang intentionally did not disseminate the right amount of information about the agreement including a detailed map which was only made available by Malacañang few days after the controversy broke out to a limited number of people. [cite journal
last = Go
first = Miriam Grace
title = RP knew exploration ‘too close’ to Palawan
journal = ABS-CBN News/Newsbreak
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-09
url = http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=111570
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] China denied the allegations connecting the deal with the loans. [cite journal
title = Loans not linked to Spratlys – China
journal = Philippine Star
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-15
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=20080314176&type=2
accessdate = 2008-03-20

Another puzzle some legislators pointed out is the continued delay in the passage of the bill setting the Philippines’ archipelagic baselines. The bill is needed to be passed before the middle of 2009 to beat the deadline set by the United Nations for the measures defining countries’ territorial claims. The bill has just passed its second reading and the third and final reading is not yet started. Furthermore, the HR committee on foreign affairs received a message from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) saying that the bill should not be passed because it is in conflict with some international agreements the government had entered to.

The Philippine Senate, which is an opposition-majority block, believes that the President can be impeached if she was proven to have forsaken the national interests of the Philippines. Charges can include treason, betrayal of public trust, violation of the constitution and other charges related to other anomalies the Arroyo is currently facing. The Philippine Senate believes that the agreement should have gone through them for ratification before it could take effect.

Opposition legislators also say that the agreement is a betrayal to the 10-member ASEAN. After ASEAN, as a group, confronted China 10 years ago regarding the latter’s apparent of hegemonic motive in South China Sea, the legislators said that Philippines had made an agreement with China on its own without even consulting other ASEAN states. [cite journal
title = EDITORIAL: A sellout
journal = Philippine Star
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-09
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=20080308161&type=2
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] Vietnam is said to have initially resisted joining the agreement but was eventually "forced" to join to protect its own interest after Philippines gave China a 100% OK.

The alleged betrayal also extends up to the signing of the Code of Conduct in 2002. The legislators said that after convincing the other ASEAN states to force China sign the Declaration, which China initially resisted, the Philippines had made an agreement which will clearly affect the fates of other ASEAN states without even consulting them. The legislators also say that Arroyo became too soft regarding China’s claim over the Spratlys, while all other ASEAN states are still strongly rejecting it. [cite journal
last = Mendez
first = Christina
title = Senate to review Spratlys oil exploration deal
journal = Philippine Star
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-07
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=20080306209&type=2
accessdate = 2008-03-09

Malacañang, on the other hand, continues to stress that there is nothing wrong with the agreement and that it doesn’t go against the constitution. They contend that the agreement is for purely seismic activities only, without any actual exploitation activities, thus there is no need for a Senate ratification. Supporters of the agreement contend that the nature of the activity is a scientific one which helps in easing the tensions among the three involved nations. [cite journal
last = Sy
first = Marvin
title = Nothing wrong with Spratlys deal – Palace
journal = Philippine Star
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-09
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=20080308170&type=2
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] They also say that the JMSU is not different from other agreements the Philippines had made in the past with Australia and Norway regarding the oil in the Spratlys. Critics, on the other hand, pointed that Australia and Norway are in a different situation since neither of these countries is a claimant to the Spratlys.cite journal
last = Ho
first = Abigail L.
title = PNOC: JMSU area all in RP
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-19
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080319-125595
accessdate = 2008-03-19

Because of the controversy, some Philippine legislators were alarmed by the increasing Chinese influence in the Philippines which is in parallel with the growing influence of China in other countries, especially in Africa. Reports came out saying that the United States was "pissed off" by the Philippines’ deal with China, signifying a war of the US and China for dominance in the ASEAN region. [cite journal
last = Labog-Javellana
first = Juliet
title = Spratlys deals irked US, says Drilon
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-08
url = http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20080308-123476/Spratlys-deals-irked-US--Drilon
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] The US embassy in Manila denied the reports. [cite journal
last = Quismundo
first = Tarra
title = US seeks peaceful, transparent resolution of Spratlys issue
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-09
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080309-123734
accessdate = 2008-03-15

Activities and policies

Guarding activity

The Philippines have stationed soldiers in its occupied islands and reefs. One to three small structures were built in Likas, Parola, Kota, Lawak and Rizal Reef to house soldiers. The only island having a significant number of structures is Pagasa (see Pagasa Island subsection in this article), the only Philippine-occupied island to have a civilian population. The Philippines had not built any structure on Ayungin and Balagtas Reefs. A naval ship, "BRP Sierra Madre", which ran aground on Ayungin Reef in 1999 serves as the shelter and observation post of soldiers stationed here. In Balagtas Reef, the Philippine Navy's ships alternately take shifts in guarding the reef, though they are not just guarding this reef but the whole area that is enclosed by all other Philippine-occupied islands. The two other Philippine-occupied islands, Patag and Panata, are each less than an hectare in area. Fortunately for the Philippines, these two tiny islands are each near to a large Philippine-occupied island. Patag Island is just convert|6|mi|km from Lawak Island and Panata Island is just convert|8|mi|km from Kota Island. The two large islands, Lawak and Kota, are 7.93 and 6.45 hectares in area respectively. With this setting, the Philippines is able to guard the small islands effectively without having to build any structures or to send any soldiers permanently to the two tiny islands. A convert|10|m|ft|0 watchtower is present on each of the large islands to effectively see the tiny islands within the horizon. Also, Philippine naval vessels and reconnaissance planes are always present in the area to detect movements of foreign countries.

Philippine forces in the Spratly chain, just like any other country, reserve the right to shoot down any vessel of other countries that can be found within the horizon of its occupied features. For instance, the Smart Communications engineering team (who will install a communication system) sent to Pagasa Island in 2005 was forced to seek temporary refuge in "BRP Sierra Madre" because of an unexpected storm. Because their boat didn't carry a Philippine flag, the soldiers at "BRP Sierra Madre" considered sinking the boat. Fortunately for the engineering team, the soldiers did not continue their plan because they somehow felt that the boat is manned by Filipinos. They accurately thought that it might be just seeking refuge because of the storm.

Philippine Star editorial cartoon depicting Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (holding a "Tai-ping" sign) successfully hitting a Filipino (holding a "Ligao" sign) with a rock. Tai-ping is the Taiwanese name for Itu Aba Island, where President Chen visited in February 2008. The cartoon is a commentary on the Philippines' inability to enforce its claim in the Spratlys due to its lagging military capabilities. Ligao is the Philippine name for the island.] A documentary produced by i-Witness of GMA 7, a local TV network, entitled "Bantay ng Kalayaan" (lit. Guard(s) of "Kalayaan"), featured the lives of soldiers guarding the islands of Patag and Lawak Islands. Because the two islands are near to each other, they are managed as a single division. In the documentary, only four enlisted soldiers are guarding them. A simple wooden structure was built in Lawak Island, the larger of the two islands. This serves as their shelter. They have two dogs which serve as inexpensive companions. A basketball ring is also erected to provide them a pastime on their boring assignment. Every month, a naval vessel visits to drop new supplies and to replace one or two soldiers. Their weapons only include M16 rifles and a few grenades. The soldiers themselves believe that they will never be able to protect the islands if other countries will try to attack them. However, all of them agree that the islands should be guarded since it is of national importance. Occasionally, some Filipino fishermen who happen to see the islands, visit for a few minutes for some nice chit-chats with the soldiers. These fishermen will normally commend the soldiers, boosting the soldiers' morale. Then before leaving, these fishermen give the soldiers some of their catch. [cite episode
title = Bantay ng Kalayaan
series = i-Witness
serieslink = i-Witness
airdate = 2003

Among the claimant nations, the Philippines can be treated as the weakest in terms of military capabilities. It lacks sufficient military hardware. Its defense program in the Spratlys only include several old naval vessels, most of which are used already by the US military. Its planes are more surveillance types than fighter types. Even the current Armed Forces chief of the Philippines, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., doubts if they can win a war with other claimants if the situation gets worse. However, he said that this will not hinder the Philippine soldiers from defending the islands. "We may not have the chance, but that does not mean that soldiers are not willing to fight for the country," he said. He said that despite limited firepower, Philippine troops are ready to do "hand-to-hand" combat. [cite journal
last = Guinto
first = Joel
title = AFP to go ‘hand-to-hand’ to defend Spratlys--Esperon
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
date = 2008-03-17
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080317-125270
accessdate = 2008-03-20

After the signing of the Code of Conduct between claimant nations in November 2002, the Philippines have maintained a total of 60 soldiers stationed in all of the features it occupies. [cite web
title = DND: No need to tighten Spratlys security
url = http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=107957
accessdate = 2008-03-14
] About 40 of those are in Pagasa Island. The remainder are divided among the remaining features. These exclude the one to two policemen and several village guards ("barangay tanods") which are unarmed and are considered as civilians of Pagasa island. These also exclude naval personnel aboard Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard vessels and pilots of the Philippine Air Force's jets which regularly patrol the area.

Balikatan exercises

Balikatan Exercises, a.k.a. Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines (OEF-P) is part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the U.S. Global War on Terrorism. Since 2001, United States and Philippines have done joint military exercises in different parts of the Philippines. The war games are primarily aimed at combating terrorists. ("Balikatan" is the Tagalog term for shoulder-to-shoulder). [References and further reading on [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/balikatan.htm Balikatan: "Shouldering the Load Together" (GlobalSecurity.org)] .]

However, some analysts see this agreement as a move of the Philippines in its desperate quest to protect its claimed territories. [cite journal
last = Rodriguez
first = Ronald A.
title = So much for the Spratly Islands accord
journal = Asia Times Online
date = 2004-06-26
url = http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/FF26Ae02.html
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] [Further reading on [http://www.heritage.org/research/asiaandthepacific/BG1255.cfm Rebuilding the U.S.-Philippine Alliance (The Heritage Foundation)] ] During the 1970's and 1980's, the Soviets who have bases in Vietnam and the United States which has bases in the Philippines have maintained a balance of power in the Spratly region. After the collapse of the USSR and eviction of United States forces from the Philippines in 1991, most claimants, especially China, have aggressively taken actions occupying features and building more structures. [cite journal
last = Havely
first = Joe
title = World: Asia-Pacific: Analysis: Flashpoint Spratly
journal = BBC Online Network
location = Manila
date = 1999-02-14
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/279170.stm
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] In 2001, two years after China's building of additional structures in Mischief Reef that caused a news panic in Manila, the Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified by both United States and the Philippines. Since then, a joint military exercise is always held annually.

Many of the war games involved amphibious assault exercises. Some of these amphibious assault exercises were held in Palawan which lies near the Spratlys. Analysts say Philippines does not need amphibious assault in jungle warfare with Philippines' secessionist groups. China has protested past Balikatan exercises that were held near the Spratlys. [cite journal
title = Stay away, Reds warn US troops
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila, Philippies
date = 2004-02-24
url = http://philstar.com/archives.php?aid=155704&type=1
accessdate = 2008-03-20

The Philippines has invoked its mutual defense treaty with the US to obtain US assistance in repelling Chinese forces from islands claimed by the Philippines. Signed in 1951, the treaty stipulates the two countries to defend each other in case of an attack from an external party. However, US does not include the Spratly Islands in its understanding of Philippine territory. Instead, the US limited itself in continuously supporting the Philippine defense programs with military and intelligence aid and training, and a variety of diplomatic measures aimed at sending a "strong message" to Beijing. [cite journal
last = Chin
first = Larry
title = The United States in the Philippines: post-9/11 imperatives
journal = Online Journal
date = 2003
url = http://www.yonip.com/main/articles/philippines.html
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] Such "strong messages" and the ASEAN intervention are believed to have calmed China's previously aggressive drive in the Spratly region.

Grounded ships

China has accused the Philippines of intentional grounding of the latter’s naval ships in features in the Spratly chain to advance an occupation. Two ships [cite journal
title = Philippines tells China it will remove stranded ships
journal = Kyodo News International
date = 1999-11-23
url = http://museums.cnd.org/CND-Global/CND-Global.99.4th/CND-Global.99-11-23.html
accessdate = 2008-03-03
] , the "BRP Sierra Madre" and "BRP Benquet", were grounded on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Reef and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during 1999. China had urged the Philippines to remove the grounded ships. The Philippines immediately replied that it will do whatever it can to remove the ships. However, the one on Scarborough Shoal was the only ship removed. The Philippines decided to occupy Ayungin Reef following Malaysia’s sudden occupation of Erica Reef and Investigator Shoal during the same year. Soldiers assigned by the Philippines in Ayungin Reef still take shelter at the grounded ship up to this day.

"BRP Benguet" was successfully removed from Scarborough Shoal. This is in compliance with the demand of Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji before his official visit to Manila. [cite journal
title = ASEAN Summit to Face Spratly Dispute
journal = China News Digest - Global
location = Manila
date = 1999-11-15
url = http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDQ/is_1999_Nov_15/ai_57602076/pg_1
accessdate = 2008-03-01
] While it is true that China, at first, demanded the removal of the two ships, China later just demanded the removal of the ship in Scarborough Shoal. It is believed that China dropped its insistence to remove the ship in Ayungin Reef because, likewise, the Philippines may urge China to remove the structures the latter built over Mischief Reef, which is located near Ayungin Reef. "BRP Benguet" went aground again in Pagasa Island in 2004 and has remained there up to this day.

Construction policy

Unlike other countries, the Philippines has a long history of policies minimizing building of structures on the islands and reefs it occupies. This is in contrast with other countries which have already built concrete garrisons, lighthouses, multi-storey hotels and huge shelters. Aerial photos (of Google Maps) of the Spratly Islands reveal that almost no structure can be found on islands and reefs occupied by the Philippines, except for Pagasa Island, while islands occupied by Taiwan and Vietnam have many. The Philippines have a policy that only few small structures are to be built within the islands and reefs. While the Philippines’ underdeveloped economy might be one of the reasons behind this policy, the norms of Filipino people in general cannot be disregarded. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands and is not even sharing an island with another country (For example, Borneo is shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia). Many of these islands are small; comparable to areas of the Spratly islands occupied by the Philippines. And it is noteworthy in Philippine culture that these small islands are indeed kept intact as much as possible, and to some extent kept uninhabited. Building of structures is always minimized by local people. Even for tourist destination islands like Boracay, no huge building can be found. Before the Spaniards conquered the Philippines, many of these small islands are treated like gods. Many of these islands are actually named after different sex organs in local languages, proving that pre-colonial Filipinos had high regard for fertility which is commonly associated with their gods. And after centuries, anthropologists assert that these beliefs are still deeply ingrained within the Filipinos, especially for coastal people who are usually fishermen. Even in the Congress of the Philippines, bills that propose to construct many structures in the Spratly islands are always met with critical responses.

However, this policy of minimizing building of structures is also caused by views of people who actually reside within the Spratly islands. These include soldiers and civilians who have chosen to permanently settle in the islands. In an interview for a certain TV program , Rosendo L. Mantes, mayor of Kalayaan, Palawan, said that he does not want to have more structures on Pagasa Island because it meant cutting more trees within the island and it may drive the birds away. He said that in the midst of a vast sea, the only thing that could give a person a relaxing atmosphere is nature – its trees and birds. Soldiers guarding other islands also agree. For instance, the soldiers guarding Parola Island said that they don’t want the island to be like the Vietnam-occupied Pugad Island which they can see within the horizon. Pugad Island currently has a huge concrete fortress in its center. Previously, when the Philippines is still in control of that island, Pugad is filled with trees and is a bird sanctuary. The soldiers said that it seems the birds already took refuge to Parola after Vietnam erected the huge structure. The soldiers said they don’t want to drive these birds away again by building large structures in the island they are guarding.

Pagasa Island

As of 2008, the only Philippine-occupied Spratly island to have many structures is Pagasa (Thitu) Island, the lone barangay of Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan. All Philippine-occupied Spratly islands are integrated as one municipality to the province of Palawan. Cities and municipalities in the Philippines are divided into smaller political units called barangays. However, because Pagasa is currently the only civilian-inhabited island, Kalayaan is the only municipality in the Philippines to have a single barangay and that is Pagasa. Pagasa has about 300 civilian residents and 40 soldiers. The civilian population is always less than 200 at a time since other Kalayaan residents have businesses to attend to on the Palawan mainland. The population is regulated to protect the island’s environment, to avoid short supplies of commodities and to conserve land space. Pagasa is only 37 hectares and can only accommodate a maximum of 500 people at a time. Most of the civilian population consists of poor Filipinos who were convinced by Mayor Mantes to settle in the islands since 2002. Before, Pagasa Island barely had a civilian population even though Kalayaan was already an established municipality. The settlers are provided a means of livelihood by the government. Most of them are involved in fishing and other sea-related crafts. To make some additions to their supplies which are provided by a naval ship which visits once a month, the settlers also raise pigs, goats and chickens and plant some crops in an allotted space.

Because of its thriving civilian community, the only one in the Spratly chain, Pagasa has many structures compared to other Philippine-occupied islands. These include the municipal multi-purpose hall, a school and clinic, a military outpost, a water treatement plant, a deep well, a marina, a 1.26 km airstrip, a commercial communications tower, power generator, houses of civilian families, pig barns and goat and poultry houses. However, the number and size of Pagasa’s structures are still relatively few and small compared to structures of other countries’ occupied islands. One unique feature of Pagasa Island is its convert|1.26|km|yd|0 unconcretized airstrip (named as Rancudo Airfield). Aerial photos of Pagasa Island show that a rectangular portion of the coral base around Pagasa is reclaimed to serve as an extension of the airstrip. Pagasa's airstrip is the longest airstrip in the Spratly chain, followed by Taiwan's Itu Aba (Ligao) Island's convert|1.150|km|yd|0 airstrip (completed in January 2008), [cite journal
title = Taiwan completes airstrip on disputed island
journal = Reuters UK
location = Manila
date = 2008-01-28
url = http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKTP2888620080128
accessdate = 2008-03-14
] Malaysia's Swallow Reef's convert|1.067|km|yd|0 airstrip [cite web
url = http://www.virtualmalaysia.com/destination/Layang-Layang.html
accessdate = 2008-03-20
] and Vietnam's Spratly (proper) (Lagos) Island's convert|610|m|yd|0 airstrip. Pagasa's airstrip can accommodate Philippine Air Force (PAF) fighter jets and even the huge C-130 cargo planes. Right now, numerous plans are proposed for Pagasa. One plan is construction of a hangar beside the airstrip to house more surveillance and fighter jets of the PAF. Another plan is to concretize the airstrip to avoid rough landings of planes. [cite journal
author = VR/Sunnex
title = Military mulls using Pagasa Island as training ground for Navy officers
journal = Sun Star Manila
location = Manila
date = 2006-06-26
url = http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/man/2006/06/26/news/military.mulls.using.pagasa.island.as.training.ground.for.navy.officers.html
accessdate = 2008-03-09

For the Philippine Navy, they are proposing making a causeway that leads all the way to a deep water region where naval vessels can dock. [cite paper
author = Gupta, Vipin
coauthors = Bernstein, Adam
title = Remote Monitoring in the South China Sea
publisher = Sandia National Laboratory
date = May 1999
url = http://www.gwu.edu/~spi/analysis.htm
accessdate = 2008-02-16
] Pagasa island is completely surrounded by its wide coral base making it hard for naval vessels to get near the island. Actually, one naval vessel, the "BRP Benguet", attempted to dock near the island in 2004 but it was damaged and went aground. Up to this day, the damaged ship is still there. The Philippine government currently has no resources to move the damaged ship. And in 2001, civilian Filipinos who first settled on the island had needed to make numerous boat trips between the coast and the ship to move their belongings and properties. The pigs they have carried to the island were actually thrown in the water. The pigs float in water and they instinctively swim to the nearest land they can see.

Kalayaan residents have also erected an imposing bust of Tomas Cloma on the island as a tribute to Kalayaan's founder.

The Kalayaan residents (led by their mayor) are proposing to have the island developed for tourism. The island has a white beach; trees and birds are abundant. It has good diving spots too. An AFP military chief said that the army together with its navy would help bring more tourists to the white sands and pristine waters of Pagasa Island starting April 2008. In addition, there have been plans of building stilt cottages in Pagasa Island, like the ones in El Nido and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. cite journal
last = Goloy
first = Angelina G.
title = Promise of Pag-asa
journal = Manila Standard Today
location = Manila
date = 2005-08-22
url = http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=goodLife01_aug22_2005
accessdate = 2008-03-09
] Several housing units were already built to accommodate tourists. One to two commercial flights between Pagasa and Puerto Princesa City are available weekly for tourists. [cite web
title = Pag-asa Island
publisher = Vista Pinas
date = July 22 2007
url = http://www.vistapinas.com/article/pag-asa-island
accessdate = 2008-03-09

Other islands and reefs

Parola, Likas, Kota and Lawak Islands are expected to be populated within the following next two decades. However, the latter two islands may take a longer time to be populated because they are less than eight hectares, requiring a need for land reclamation to expand their areas. This will make the Municipality of Kalayaan to have a total of five barangays. On the other hand, Patag and Panata Islands are too small to be populated. They are most likely to remain as military outposts unless the Philippines opt to do some massive land reclamation projects on the islands. Rizal, Balagtas and Ayungin Reefs will likely remain as fishing zones occupied by Philippine forces. Land reclamation on these reefs, like what Malaysia did to Swallow Reef where Malaysia turned it into an artificial island with 6.2 hectares area, will reduce the Philippines' fishing space. Thus, such reclamation projects might be opposed by Filipino fishermen who regularly fish in the said reefs.

A proposal to build lighthouses in some shallow features to the east of the 116°E meridian like Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal is also being considered. [cite journal
last = Bordadora
first = Norman
coauthors = Joel Guinto, Veronica Uy
title = Proposed baselines: War or surrender
journal = Philippine Daily Inquirer
location = Manila
date = 2008-03-14
url = http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/spratlys/view.php?db=1&article=20080314-124608
accessdate = 2008-03-19

Filipino soldiers guarding the islands always feel bored in their assignment. Their is very small. There is very little to do in the islands. Though all features of the Philippines have a satellite dish to provide soldiers access to television shows, and a satellite telephone for them to have continuous contact with their family and superiors, these have not been enough to lift their boredom.

The soldiers in Lawak Island, just to signify how bored they were, said that they enjoy watching the flights, egg-laying and incubation of the numerous sea gulls living on the island.cite web
title = Mayroong 'Pag-asa' sa gitna ng karagatan
publisher = ABS-CBN News
language = Tagalog
date = November 2002
url = http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/images/news/microsites/TheCorrespondents/TheCorrespondents10142002.htm
accessdate = 2008-03-05

The soldiers on Rizal Reef, on the other hand, enjoy fishing. Rizal Reef has white sandbars which are above water level when the tide is not extremely high. These sandbars enclose many lagoons which according to the soldiers are like "swimming pools" for the clear water they enclose. When the weather is bad (e.g., typhoon), there comes the boredom. They have no choice but to stay inside their small quarters on stilts. However, they are not totally bitter when the weather is bad since it is also their source of clean water. The roof of their quarters is made such that it can catch raindrops and stock them in a huge container. The soldiers said that, unlike food which can be provided by their fishing and a vegetable garden beside their barracks, fresh water is their number one concern. When they run out of fresh water supplied by the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard, they begin drinking the water caught from the rain. And during these times is when they limit their baths as much as they can.

Soldiers on Ayungin Reef have similar problems regarding clean water. However, unlike the soldiers in Rizal Reef who have small quarters, the soldiers in Ayungin Reef have a much better lifestyle. Their shelter is the grounded "BRP Sierra Madre", a Philippine naval vessel. They have individual beds, a karaoke machine and a dining area.

The Philippine Marines in Panata Island, on the other hand, used to raise up to five sharks at a time in a lagoon located in the middle of the island.

The Philippine government tries to compensate for this boredom by giving the soldiers a salary way above their normal salary. Actually, this has been the reason why some of the soldiers always volunteer to take the job despite the boredom.

Oil exploration

The Philippines began exploring the areas west of Palawan for oil in 1970. Exploration in the area began in Reed Bank/Tablemount and in 1976, gas was discovered following the drilling of a well. [cite web
title = CMOL - Camago-Malampaya Oil Leg Project
url = http://www.pnoc-ec.com.ph/SC38(MalampayaProject).html
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] However, China's complaints halted the exploration.

Today, Malampaya oil platform is the only operational oil platform in the Philippines. It is extracting natural gas from the Camago-Malampaya oil leg (CMOL) (or simply Malampaya Field), located convert|80|km|mi west of northern Palawan. It is not claimed by other countries. It contains 3.7 trillion cubic feet (659 billion oil barrels) of natural gas reserves.cite journal
title = IBON: Spratly deal a repeat of disastrous Malampaya sale
journal = GMANews.TV
location = Manila
date = 2003-03-07
url = http://www.gmanews.tv/story/83821/IBON-Spratly-deal-a-repeat-of-disastrous-Malampaya-sale
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] The Malapaya Project began the Philippines' natural gas industry and enabled the supply of at least 2,700 megawatts of power for a period of at least 20 years starting 2002.cite web
title = SC 38 - Malampaya Project
url = http://www.pnoc-ec.com.ph/SC38(MalampayaProject).html
accessdate = 2008-03-15
] In December 2001, an extended well test of the thin oil rim beneath the field initially yielded about convert|8|Moilbbl|m3 of oil per day (bpd). It is also believed to be the deepest horizontal subsea well test undertaken in the world at a depth of about 850 m.cite web
title = Malampaya, South China Sea, Philippines
url = http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/malampaya/
accessdate = 2008-03-15

The upstream component of the $4.5 billion USD Malampaya gas-to-power project was jointly developed by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX), ChevronTexaco and PNOC EC. The project was formally inaugurated on October 16, 2001. Shell Philippines Exploration owns 45% of the project, ChevronTexaco owns 45% and PNOC-EC owns 10%. Malampaya is expected to provide substantial long-term revenue of between $8–10 billion USD to the Philippine government over its life span. Other sites eyed by PNOC-EC west of Palawan are the Calamian, West Calamian, West Balabac, and East Sabina sites.

Another oil field being explored today is Reed Bank, which exploration was halted in 1980's after China's objections. The concession is currently awarded to Forum Energy plc, a UK-based oil, gas and coal company. The Reed Bank concession is located in the South China Sea west of Palawan Island. The licence is located to the southwest of the Shell-operated Malampaya Gas Field.cite web
title = REED BANK
url = http://www.forumenergyplc.com/operations/oilandgas/reed-bank.aspx
accessdate = 2008-03-15

The concession was first awarded to Sterling Energy plc (which later merged with another company to form Forum Energy) in June 2002. In 2003 Sterling reprocessed 250 km of 2D seismic data and completed a feasibility study on the gas-to-liquid options for the gas field. The seismic work and the gas-to-liquid study fulfilled the initial work commitments on the concession and Sterling was granted a 12 month extension in June 2004. In 2005 Forum acquired new 3D seismic data over the licence area fulfilling its work commitments required under the 12 month extension. In September 2006, results of the interpretation of the 3D seismic programme at the Sampaguita (an area inside Reed Bank) gas discovery indicated a world class gas accumulation with potential reserves of up to 20 trillion cubic feet (3.56 trillion oil barrels).

Unlike Malampaya, Reed Bank is claimed both by the two Chinas and Vietnam. There is still no news on whether these countries are disputing this exploration or not.

Response to illegal fishing

Arrests of Chinese fishermen

(US$25,000).cite web
title = 200 sea turtles found on board Chinese fishing boat
publisher = Wildnews Extra
date = September 2007
url = http://www.wildlifeextra.com/turtle-poaching128.html
accessdate = 2008-03-03
The press in the Philippines has reported many arrests of Chinese fishermen by Philippine authorities. Their violations include illegal fishing methods, catching of endangered sea species, fishing in a restricted zone and failure to allow the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard to inspect their ships when they are spotted in regions under the sovereignty of the Philippines. They are usually labeled as "Chinese poachers" by Philippine authorities and press. They are arrested in various parts of the Philippines, not only in the Spratly region controlled by the Philippines. Most of them are arrested in the Sulu Sea. Some are arrested in Scarborough Shoal. Rarely, some are arrested in the seas of Visayas. When they are arrested in the Spratly region, they are turned in to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; if in the Sulu Sea, to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan or Zamboanga City whichever is nearest; if in Scarborough Shoal, to Subic, Zambales. [No comprehensive discussion about arrests of Chinese fishermen is easily available. A [http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=chinese+fishermen+arrested+by+philippines&fr=yfp-t-501&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fp_ip=PH&vc= web search] can provide ample sources about these arrests.]

Many Chinese fishing vessels fish in the South China Sea and some of them enter Philippine waters, even including those which are not disputed areas (like the Sulu Sea, an undoubtedly Philippine territory). The Philippines, in general, is tolerant in allowing Chinese vessels to fish in areas claimed by the Philippines but are disputed. These include Scarborough Shoal and waters in the vicinity of Philippine-occupied Spratly islands. They can however be caught here if the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard is able to determine that the vessel is doing an illegal fishing activity. This does not apply to areas to areas which are not disputed like east of the 116°E meridian, the Sulu Sea and seas between other Philippine islands (non-Spratly). These vessels normally fly a Philippine flag to avoid suspicion. If they are caught in these non-disputed areas, there is no need for grounds like illegal fishing to pursue a case in a court. They will be charged with trespassing in Philippine territories. Also, the Chinese fishermen sometimes enter Malaysian or Indonesian waters to avoid capture by Philippine forces.

For some situations, cases are immediately filed and trials start quickly. This is in contrast with all other cases handled by Philippine courts where it takes months before the trial is started. This unusually fast processing of cases regarding apprehended Chinese fishermen is made to avoid further political disputes with China. Normally, the case is decided within one to two months with all Chinese fishermen being found guilty. Their vessels are confiscated and are never returned. However, the courts generally approve bail for the fishermen's release which is always paid by the Chinese government. In other situations, the courts approve the bail even before the trial could start. Environmentalists in the Philippines have always criticized the Philippine government for allowing Chinese fishermen to be released on bail, saying that the Chinese fishermen must still be punished under Philippine laws.cite journal
last = Jimeno
first = Rita Linda V.
title = Editorial: The Rape of Tubbataha; Chinese Poaching 'A Simple Case of Violation of Philippine Laws'
journal = Manila Standard Today
location = Manila, Philippines
date = 2007-01-15
url = http://www.illegal-fishing.info/item_single.php?item=news&item_id=1212&approach_id=13
accessdate = 2008-03-20
] China has always protested the Philippines' arrest of Chinese fishermen, whether the fishermen were arrested in the Spratly region controlled by the Philippines, in Scarborough Shoal or in the Sulu Sea.

Arrests of Vietnamese fishermen

There had been occasions of arrests of Vietnamese fishermen by the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, however this is not as frequent as arrests of Chinese fishermen. The arrests are also caused largely by poaching activities. The latest arrest of Vietnamese fishermen happened in 2007 at the province of Bataan. [No comprehensive discussion about arrests of Vietnamese fishermen is easily available. A [http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0oGkyFUStpHJ24BAilXNyoA?p=vietnamese+fishermen+arrested+by+philippines&y=Search&fr=yfp-t-501&ei=UTF-8&fp_ip=PH&rd=r1&meta=vc%3Dphweb web search] can provide ample sources about these arrests.]

Anti-Chinese sentiments

.cite web
title = Seeking a sea change
publisher = Business Mirror
date = June 14, 2007
url = http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/06142007/perspective01.html
accessdate = 2008-03-03
] ] Anti-Chinese sentiments are present among a number of Filipinos. [Further reading on [http://www.asianjournal.com/?c=193&a=23290 Anti-Chinese racism (Asian Journal Online)] ] These sentiments are largely caused by Chinese domination of Philippine markets. The highest echelons of Philippine society are largely composed of Chinese Filipinos. The richest persons in the Philippines, like Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, George Ty, and Tony Tan Caktiong, are pure Fujian Chinese. These sentiments can be compared, but at a very low level, to Western Europe's Jewish Question which led to Nazi Germany's Holocaust. (See Sinophobia for further discussion.)

Filipinos, with the whole world generally unaware of it, are now much more concerned with endangered species than in the past. This is primarily due to constant featuring of Philippine endemic endangered species, like the Philippine Eagle, the Tamaraw, the Philippine Crocodile, etc., in local TV news programs like the defunct "Magandang Gabi Bayan" of ABS-CBN. (It was hosted then by the current Vice-President of the Philippines, Noli de Castro. His reports on Philippine environmental issues is believed to have helped him win the Vice-Presidency). These endangered species-awareness programs in TV were started in 1990’s and its effect on Filipinos nowadays is evident. Almost every week, different TV networks show news of local people contacting local environmental authority offices to report many types of endangered species being found, some of which are injured. The species varies from sea turtles, dolphins and whales found on shores to endangered birds, owls, mammals and reptiles found in lands. A study also revealed that Filipinos in certain areas were able to moderate, if not completely stop, their killings of what they deem as pest animals, like several endemic squirrel species, when they were told that these animals were actually endangered already.

Negative sentiments towards the Chinese are always amplified by the fact that almost always, Chinese vessels caught by Philippine authorities are hiding endangered sea species. The sea species are immediately released if they are still alive; temporarily moved to an aquatic resources center if they are weak for some treatments; or buried if they are dead. In 2002, a Chinese fishing vessel was caught fishing in the Tubbataha Reef, a Philippine national marine park and a World Heritage Site, which lies at the heart of the Sulu Sea. 95 Chinese nationals were arrested. They were caught in possession of 50 sea turtles, shark meat, a roll of fuse for explosives, blasting caps, 10 fan corals, 10 sacks of dried sea cucumber, about 400 kg of dried clam meat and 13 live napoleon wrasses. The sea turtles, the giant clam shells and the napoleon wrasses are all endangered species protected under the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species—an international agreement banning their possession and trade. No one is allowed to fish in Tubbataha Reef, not even Filipinos. The reef serves as a reservoir of sea species in the Sulu Sea and is filled with many types of endangered species. TV networks decided to interview many Filipino fishermen who fish in the Sulu Sea after the incident. Clearly in their voice, they express their intense disapproval of Chinese activity within the area. And what they specifically stressed is that the Chinese even caught endangered species which they avoid catching. The Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard have launched information campaigns years ago on what sea species are prohibited from being caught. These species have corresponding local names which made it easier for Filipino fishermen to recognize the species and avoid catching them. A Filipino caught catching them may serve years in prison. Also, because public markets banned the endangered sea species from being sold, Filipino fishermen were able to follow the rules with fewer complaints.

Subsection Note: As a clarification, this relatively high level of concern of Filipino people for endangered species does not imply that they are in general environmentally friendly. Pollution is still a commonplace. Illegal fishing methods are still practiced by some Filipino fishermen to catch non-endangered sea species, which have the same weight as catching endangered species when caught by authorities. Illegal logging and slash and burn are still practiced by some.

In popular culture

*A Filipino expression that denotes a nationwide event or happening is usually a statement (in vernacular) like this: "from to ". Example, "mula Batanes hangang Tawi-tawi" (from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi). Batanes is the Philippines' northernmost province while Tawi-tawi is the southernmost province. Sometimes it is: "mula Aparri hangang Jolo" (from Aparri to Jolo). Aparri is one of Luzon's northernmost municipality and Jolo is the capital of Sulu, the second southernmost province in the Philippines. Lately though, some are beginning to add "hangang Spratlys (to the Spratlys)" in the expression. Thus, the new expressions are: "mula Batanes hangang Tawi-tawi hangang Spratlys" (from Batanes to Tawi-tawi to the Spratlys) and "mula Aparri hangang Jolo hangang Spratlys" (from Aparri to Jolo to the Spratlys).

Map showing possessions

thumb|center|800px|Spratly islands map showing occupied features marked with the flags of countries occupying them.">
flagicon|Philippines Philippines
flagicon|Taiwan Republic of China (Taiwan)
flagicon|Vietnam Vietnam
flagicon|Malaysia Malaysia
flagicon|China People's Republic of China
The flags are placed so that no text and flag overlap. Hence, some flags are not in the exact coordinates where they should actually lie. However, they still portray the general picture on how the Spratly Islands are divided among claimant nations. All occupied features are marked with flags, including those which are not labeled in the map. Here are all unlabeled features:
"Ban Than Reef" (Taiwan) -The flag below the flag for Itu Aba Island (T).
"Higgens Reef" (Vietnam) -The flag sandwiched between the flags for Sin Cowe Island (V) and Landsowne Reef (V).
"Whitson Reef" (China) -The flag nearest the Chigua Reef label. Based on the coordinates of Whitson Reef which is 10°00'N 114°43'E, it should lie there.
"Kennan Reef" (China) -The flag nearest the flag for Johnson South Reef (C).

ee also

*Spratly Islands
*Kalayaan, Palawan

Notes and references

External links

* [http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/spratlys/index.php Inquirer.net Special Report on the Spratly Issue]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=112047810770307867127.0004460b96d655257cc9c&ll=11.070603,115.708008&spn=9.563619,20.566406&t=k&z=6 Google Maps of Spratly Islands]

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