MANILA, Philippine – Soldiers in the northern part of the Philippines received on Monday, June 6, a framed replica of a 280-year-old map often used to debunk China's claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The replica of the 1734 Murillo Map of the Philippines was donated by businessman Mel Velarde, president of Now Corporation and chairperson of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.
Velarde gave the replica to the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The 1734 Murillo Map shows that the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), also known as Bajo de Masinloc, has been part of the Philippines from as far back as nearly 3 centuries ago.
Panatag Shoal is found in the contested West Philippine Sea. (READ: Duterte: We will never surrender Scarborough)
A standoff between the Philippines and China in Panatag Shoal in April 2012 prompted Manila to file a historic case against Beijing.
The case is pending before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. The tribunal is expected to issue a ruling any time soon. (READ: PH urged to build 'int'l consensus' amid China defiance)
'Scarborough Shoal is ours'
Velarde said on Monday: "Why is the replica of the Murillo Map being donated to the Northern Luzon Command? The Northern Luzon Command is the protector, watcher, caretaker, defender of Bajo de Masinloc under Northern Luzon Command's direct jurisdiction."
The map was drawn by a Spanish Jesuit priest, Father Pedro Murillo Velarde. Published in Manila, it is the first "internationally recognized scientific map of the Philippines," Nolcom said in a statement.
Nolcom commander Lieutenant General Romeo Tanalgo, for his part, praised Velarde for donating a replica of the map to them.
Tanalgo said it is a "unique and unmatched" act of patriotism to make sure that the map "landed in the hands of Filipino people."
Nolcom said the 1734 Murillo Map will always remind them "that Scarborough Shoal is ours."
In his lectures, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court has used ancient maps to debunk China's claim over the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio has said even China's ancient maps dating back to 960 AD show that its territory "never included" the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.