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Why I Started #AtinTo Shirts

Before I explain a brief history lesson is in order:

• In 2016 the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) declared INVALID China’s claim to the Spratly Islands. ITLOS, to which China is a member of, declared the ‘nine dash line’ had no historical bearing and that China was in violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone. Reference:

• In 1734 Spanish Jesuit map maker Pedro Murillo Velarde along with two Filipinos published what is now known as the ‘Murillo Velarde Map‘. It is considered by The World Digital Library as ‘the first and most important scientific map of the Philippines‘. Described as a shoal located between Luzon and the South China Sea it was initially called Panacot after which it was eventually called the Scarborough Shoal. As China is unable to produce physical evidence to the contrary the Murillo map aka ‘Mother of all Philippine Maps’ was accepted by the United Nations Convention of the Law Of The Sea (UNCLOS) as indisputable proof of the Philippines’ sovereignty over this area.

• In March 2017 China started sending survey ships to Benham Rise. Also called ‘Philippine Rise’, the undersea extinct volcanic ridge is a ‘protected food supply exclusive zone’ that prohibits mining and oil exploration. It is located 250kms to the country’s East far from the disputed Spratly and Scarborough areas situated in the country’s West. After the survey China gave Chinese names to several features of the Rise. The Philippine administration under President Duterte belatedly protested the survey after its completion. Same administration also initially said it would protest the naming of its features with Chinese names but it eventually said it had ‘no problem’ with it.

Given above facts you cannot blame myself or any Filipino for that matter to feel shocked and disturbed. I am shocked at China’s constant attempts to undermine Philippine sovereignty and rights to territory. But I am more shocked at our government’s inability bordering on blindness at these brazen attempts on lands proven many times and confirmed by other nations to be ours. While previous Philippine administrations firmly planted our flag on disputed ground, current inaction not only turns a blind eye but accepts and admits defeat.

The #AtinTo shirts message is simple: Tell the world that despite our government’s passivity on the matter, what China is doing remains and will always be unacceptable. I believe that many years from now there will be an accounting of who did what and who did nothing and anyone who does nothing is complicit and just as relevant to the consequences. the My personal hope is that my small attempt to bring voice to this important matter is made loud and clear to all concerned.