University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (IMLOS) Director Jay Batongbacal said that documents were found showing the United States (US) government turned over Bajo de Masinloc also known as Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to the Philippine Commonwealth government.
“I have read that there are now discussions in Washington about possibly tweaking especially the policy towards Scarborough Shoal,” Batongbacal told ANC. “There is a strong push for the US government, it has been under discussion for more than a year now, whether or not the US should consider/recognize Scarborough Shoal as Philippine territory.”
“This is because of the documents that we found in the archives, even posted online through AMTI (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative), which show that the United States actually turned over Scarborough Shoal to the Philippine Commonwealth government in 1937,” he explained.
He said the implication of US recognizing Scarborough Shoal as Philippine territory is very significant.
“Because if Scarborough Shoal is Philippine territory, then the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) obligations could actually be invoked,” he said.
“Now of course, it’s now a matter of shall we say, it would be a serious issue how they would act on, say, certain activities in Scarborough. The biggest danger of course is the possibility that China will push ahead with its reclamation,” said Batongbacal who is also a professor of law at the UP College of Law.
“A declaration that the Scarborough Shoal is Philippine territory, a recognition in the part of the US means that you’re raising the possibility of defending the territory from, say reclamation,” he said.