Ancient maps support PH claim over Scarborough

Carlos Santamaria

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Ancient Spanish maps feature Panatoc (Panatag) or Bajo de Masinloc off the coast of Zambales

1734 map by Murillo Velarde. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Manila

MANILA, Philippines – Several old maps support the Philippines’ claim that Scarborough or Panatag Shoal belongs to its territory and not China, as they show the disputed area was under Spanish colonial sovereignty as far back as 1734.

The oldest map, titled Carta Hydrografica de las Islas Filipinas and by Spanish cartographer Pedro Murillo Velarde, includes a space designated as “Panacot” or “Bajo de Masinloc” off the coast of Zambales.

Spain occupied the Philippines for more than 300 years.

This navigation chart, along with another by Murillo Velarde dated 1734 and two later maps, one of them British, shows the shoal 124 nautical miles from the Luzon coastline.

The four maps that feature Scarborough Shoal are part of of the exhibition Three Hundred Years of Philippine Maps: 1598-1898 unveiled on Tuesday, June 26 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila as part of several activities commemorating the tenth anniversary of Filipino-Spanish Friendship Day on Saturday, June 30.

Maps “partially” support the claim

Dr. Leovino Garcia, a Ateneo professor, scholar and map collector who helped set up the exhibition, told Rappler that the Murillo Velarde maps “partly support the Philippine claim” over Scarborough Shoal.

Garcia explained that those navigational charts were commissioned by then Spanish Governor-General Fernando Tamon Valdes, while the 1792 Felipe Bauza map came from the 1792-1793 Malaspina exploring expedition which actually circumnavigated Panatag but was only published in 1808.

The 1794 document drawn up by Robert Carr is a British map and it also includes.

According to this expert, China could technically produce their own maps from the 11th or 12 century showing that part of the Spratlys to be Chinese territory, but that was so long ago that the archipelago had not yet been named the Philippines by the Spanish.

“Would this mean the entire Philippines is owned by China?” asked Dr. Garcia.

The scholar added that this is a landmark exhibition because “maps help us find our place in the world. They do not only show us where we are and where we want to go.” 

“But they also tell us who we are. Maps teach us about our history and identity. They provide us with a memory and a destiny. Maps give us a sense of self-esteem and pride of place,” he said.

1760 map by Murillo Velarde. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Manila

All the maps are being shown to the public for the first time and belong to private collectors such as Sen Edgardo Angara.

Manila and Beijing are caught in a standoff over Scarborough. The Philippine government said Chinese ships have again returned to the area despite an earlier commitment to pull out. –

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