Professor says China's claim over Panatag Shoal 'preposterous'

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Professor Ferdinand Llanes said the Murillo map was so detailed that it even depicted sketches of Filipino culture and life along its edges — adding that even the engraver of the map's plate was a Filipino named Nicolas Bagay.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A most significant, most systematic map of the Philippines almost three centuries ago.

This was how Professor Ferdinand Llanes of the University of the Philippines in Diliman (UP Diliman) describes the "Murillo map" which was recently bought by a Filipino businessman to bolster the country's claim over the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.

Llanes, a former commissioner of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and former head of the UP Department of History, told CNN Philippines on Tuesday (June 9) that the 281-year-old map was the most reliable map of the Philippine islands during the 18th century — as it was based on travel accounts and old cartographic records of British, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese and French explorers those times.

Llanes said it was made by the Jesuit priest, Pedro Murillo Velarde (Velarde was his middle name) — who was himself a skilled cartographer or map maker — after travelling around the country and its coasts to strengthen his work.

It was so detailed that the 1734 map even depicted sketches of Filipino culture and life along its edges, Llanes said.

He added that even the engraver of the map's plate was a Filipino named Nicolas Bagay.

"It was the map officially recognized the Spanish crown," according to Llanes.

He cited that the territories outlined in the map were uncontested, and in fact, in the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the United States the Philippine islands as depicted on the map.

He said this was incontrovertible fact that Bajo de Masinloc — as Panatag Shoal was called then — was part of Philippine territory since centuries ago.

"This is why China's claim is preposterous."

He added that history professors and students had always known about the Murillo map, as it was taught in classes, but the recent acquisition of the P12-million map by businessman Mel Velarde rekindled the issue.

The professor explained that compared to Beijing's claims which were based  merely on historical accounts and description of "knowledge of the seas," the Philippines had a more solid basis in the Murillo artifact, which was a "territorial map."

He also cited that Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had also raised the point that even the 1949 Constitution of the People's Republic of China never mentioned the disputed territories as part of the communist regime.

Meanwhile, Professor  Xiao Chua  of the De La Salle University (DLSU), added that even all the early maps of China up to the early 20th century showed that its southernmost territory was Hainan Island.

"It's not the nine-dash line that they are saying," Chua said. "So it means they recognize it even during the time of the emperors. Their territory only extended to Hainan Island."

CNN Philippines' Mandy Dalawangbayan and Dariz Ignacio contributed to this report.