The Philippines and the West Philippine Sea
Image Credit: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The Philippines and the West Philippine Sea


Contrary to the thinking in certain quarters, the Philippines does not lay claim to the entire South China Sea (SCS), but rather to that smaller area of the SCS off the country’s western seaboard that is well within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf and is known as the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The Philippine government spelled out this difference when President Benigno Aquino Jr. issued Administrative Order 29 on September 5, 2012, which renamed the maritime areas to the country’s west. The Philippines is an archipelagic, maritime state, which makes the WPS a matter of serious national importance given its strategic location, security implications and resources.

The WPS would include the Kalayaan Island Group (part of the larger Spratlys group of features in the SCS), and Bajo de Masinloc, also locally called the Panatag Shoal and internationally known as Scarborough Shoal. But the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc are actually distinct and quite distant from one other. Moreover, while the Kalayaan Island Group hosts features that are above water, with some large enough to be considered islands, Bajo de Masinloc is an entirely submerged feature. As such, their maritime entitlements differ, as does the basis for Manila’s claims. The tendency in some media reporting to lump all these features and waters together often leads to confusion and creates the impression of parity in terms of the extent of claims made by Philippines with that of other SCS disputants. Hence, the official clarification was timely.

The WPS is critical for the Philippines for strategic, security and economic reasons, not to mention national patrimony and territorial integrity. The WPS is the source of most of the country’s indigenous oil and gas, with the potential to meet the country’s fuel demand in the next 20 years, while also hosting a wide array of seabed minerals. While other SCS claimants like China, for instance, can boast onshore and offshore producing basins outside the SCS, the Philippines’ present oil and gas production are clustered around offshore northwest Palawan and the Recto (Reed) Bank in the WPS. Seismic studies suggest that these two areas possess the greatest potential for a country long dependent on oil imports. As the Philippines continues to develop its offshore hydrocarbons exploration and development capabilities, while attracting local and foreign investors in harnessing these resources, the WPS promises to figure in the country’s quest for future energy security and self-sufficiency.

This may help to explain why the trilateral Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (2005-2008) was publicly criticized after news emerged that the coverage area includes 75-80 percent of the Philippines’ western EEZ, including the gas-rich Recto Bank. The notion of sharing scarce finite resources with other states led many to reject the proposed continuation of the deal. It was also said that JMSU gave China a window to claim previously undisputed maritime areas, such as Recto Bank and other waters very close to Palawan.

The WPS is also home to 20% of the country’s fisheries catch. Its rich coral formations serve as spawning grounds that replenish depleted stocks in waters adjacent to the Philippines. It is also a transit area for migratory species. The development of the local commercial fishing industry will, therefore, hinge on a sustainably managed use of these living marine resources in the WPS, which is under threat from poaching and use of illegal and destructive fishing practices. Local fishermen visiting certain parts of the WPS have also been harassed and chased away by armed troops and paramilitary ships of other occupants. The need to develop the country’s naval and maritime law enforcement assets is thus essential, both to protect local fishermen and to conserve the fisheries resources of the WPS for future Filipino generations.

January 25, 2014 at 11:14

philipine’s territory had been determinded by spanish and american in black and white when they left there…go to read them… anything beyond that is imagination of philipino…

I am sometimes wondering that they got 7000 islands already, they cannot even run them properly, what the hell are they trying to gain more through playing games of re-discovering un-maned islands?? they play themselves foolishness..

such kind of game is dangerous simply because that there are still lots of un-maned islands in the sea but had been claimed long ago, and it is typical trouble maker…and trying to draw major powers into war… and they maybe the first one to be destroyed because the capacity of modern firepower.

Antonio Luna
January 25, 2014 at 22:42

You are clearly clueless about the issues and have shown your ignorance of what’s happening in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. You can’t even spell “Filipino”.

March 16, 2014 at 05:16

You obviously do not know what this is all about.

April 11, 2014 at 16:19

equally applies to china. China’s territory has been determined by the west and japan before they left. lol. if historical right can be a basis. i suggest china give back the territories the west and japan and russia won from there. after all the chinese believe might is right.

Chinaman has a say
October 13, 2013 at 07:58

The west knows only force and that’s why European people are everywhere in the world map far away from their original habitat today

papa john
October 12, 2013 at 12:32

Bravos for the Phillipines for playing tough with the bad bully China. The rest of SEA countries should follow the Phil if you don't want your beloved countries in a few years flooded by the mainland Chinese, your beautiful land would be a waste land and your smiling relaxed easy-going people would become more like Chinese. Just look at the Chinese way, Chinese tourists carrying with them around the world so you know.

October 12, 2013 at 12:14

This is true. China man got kick hard in 1979. China Vietnam war. China Han was never good fighter. Traditional they just used mass to assimilate a lot smaller neighbors round them. This is was make china today. Geographic and character.

January 25, 2014 at 19:48

I suggest you refrain from making any more comments; it is painfully obvious that you don’t have the intellect to make any credible opinions….

October 12, 2013 at 12:13

This is true. China man got kick hard in 1979. China Vietnam war.

China Han was never good fighter. Traditional they just used mass to assimilate a lot smaller neighbors round them. This is was make china today. Geographic and character.

October 12, 2013 at 12:06

This comes from permanent bad food, air, greed and bad Karma (see Tibet). Most Chinese are going crazy. They don't know what right and wrong. They growing up in a system which build on lie. Traditional, they don't love their country and their own people. They like to steal land from your neighbors and……

October 12, 2013 at 11:58

China men understand only one language …FORCE. Philippines should get more weappon.

Japan from north east. Vietnam and Philippines from the south. If ASEAN united. China never able to control south sea. Let kick china man in the a**.  

Chinaman has a say
October 12, 2013 at 00:58

Free thinking world is the white world, where has the American Indians gone? Where are the aborigines? The Maoris? The African Americans? They are now either being bullied and treated like 2nd class citizens by white people (mostly Anglo Saxons), or were already exterminated from planet earth.

Who will be next? China? India?

Free thinking world, why are you so cruel???

Chinaman has a say
October 12, 2013 at 00:49

Yeah blah blah blah chins must be stopped this china must be stopped that.

How about Uncle Sam invading Iraq for “freedom” and “democracy” based on lies and now turned the country into a bomb blowing sh’thole? How about the USA supporting Islamist militants in the Syrian conflict, who bombed, gases, and used chemical weapons against innocent civilians and yet shamelessly blamed the Syrian Army did it?! Huh!?

If the West makes up its mind to stop an emerging economy country from rising at any cost, should that country be China, I guarantee you it will be the end of your so called western civilization(not at all civilized), and the end of your history too. Guaranteed!

Chinaman has a say
October 12, 2013 at 00:38

What? Why shouldn’t it be called the American Sea?! It’s the American Sea since they had so many military bases around the region, and the whole world is theirs why shouldn’t this sea belong to the USA huh?!

October 11, 2013 at 23:14

Did you even bother to read the links? Where are all the chinese military might and power? Funny how Japanese Navy just wanted to catch the chinese fish poachers, china and chinese would jump up and down and scream like crazy but so silent and in denial when Russia shot at your people many times. Why is that?


Why all the silent and humiliation? When someone attacked the US, they will pay (see Osama). When someone attacked china, china would do NOTHING but more hot air and bragging.


Still nothing about the 600 thousands sq. kilometers of land that Russia took from your ancestors in 1850s? Where are your "core interest", "historic evidences", "undisputable territories", "we will never back down"?

October 11, 2013 at 14:30 are a big liar indeed! Those smuggers deserve it and the fishermen none was killed by the Russian. What a BIG LIAR you are.

Exactly the same old story there is WMD there is WMD there is WMD now they have moved them to Syria… hahahahaha…. nice story. keep telling to the world about it. good try!

October 11, 2013 at 12:19

Here is another one =


This is so much fun. Not so for china and chinese. Better luck next time, ok?

October 11, 2013 at 12:17

Here is one =


Here is another one =


Do you want more? More shame and humiliation for the whole world to see?


Funny how china and chinese would NOT dare to say anything. No big talk, no threat, nothing about getting even or revenge of dead chinese. Just like nothing about the 600 thousands sq. kilometers of land that Russia took by force after they slaughtered chinese in 1850s. How sad and how pathetic.


Dear the readers of the world, who is the liar now? Of course, bully china and chinse posters. Again, as usual.

January 25, 2014 at 19:43

you are an idiot; it is painfully obvious you do not know what you are talking about….

October 11, 2013 at 11:23

Correction: "China can be a good friend to all those who want to be China's puppets, those who want to be China's dog and to all those who have the resources that China needs." There fixed that for you. China is a double-faced liar.

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