Spratly Islands

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The recent political brouhaha had me interested in checking out the Spratly Islands. Browsing through the internet, I found interesting facts on the Wikipedia as well as from various websites on Spratlys.

One that interested me the most, is the Swallow Reef or Layang Layang (pictured above), where schools of hammerheads, tunas, jacks, barracudas, mantas, devil rays and occasional thresher sharks have been sighted by visiting divers. It is considered a world-class diving destination in Malaysia and some say that it’s better than Sipadan.

Here are more facts about Spratlys:

  • It is composed of 100 islets and reefs making up 5 km of actual land spread over 410,000 sq km of the South China Sea.
  • The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People’s Republic of China has estimated that it holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons as compared to the 13 billion tons held by Kuwait, placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world.
  • Rich fishing grounds and sanctuary for birds such as swallows, boobies and egrets
  • It has no ports or harbors but have four airstrips.
  • About 25% of world shipping passes through the region, carrying Middle East oil to Japan and the western United States.
  • China, Taiwan & Vietnam lay claim to all of them while Malaysia, Brunei & the Philippines, to part of them.
  • All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago.
  • China calls it Nansha Qundao Islands & occupies 8 reefs. Mischief Reef houses a “shelter for fishermen” as well as a helicopter landing while Gaven & Subi Reefs contains a two and three storey buildings, respectively.
  • Taiwan occupies 1 island & 1 reef. The Itu Aba Island, the largest island, has a 1150 m long airstrip which was recently completed last January 2008. a radar station and a power plant.
  • Vietnam calls it Golden Sandbanks. It currently occupies 6 islands, 17 reefs and 3 banks.
  • Malaysia occupies 1 artificial island, 5 reefs and 1 shoal. Layang Layang is a man made atoll constructed for the Malaysian navy and later developed for the dive resort and a 1.5 km airstrip. It can only be reached by plane from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah which is 300 km away.
  • Pulau Layang Layang or Swallow Reef has a total of 12 dive sites. Diving starts from March to August. School of Mantas, Hammerheads and occasional tresher sharks are just some of its underwater attractions.
  • The Philippines calls it Kalayaan Group of Island and occupies 7 islands & 3 reefs. An airstrip was built by the Philippine government in Thitu Island in the early 1970’s.
  • The Philippines’ claim to the Spratly Islands was first expressed in the 1946 UN General Assembly & based its claims of sovereignty over the Spratlys on the issues of res nuliius and geography.
  • The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stated that a coastal state could claim two hundred nautical miles of jurisdiction beyond its land boundaries as part of it Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • In 1986, China & Vietnam clashed again as their navies waged a brief battle off Johnson Reef. Several Vietnamese boats were sunk and more than 70 sailors died.
  • To lessen tensions over the Spratlys, ASEAN and China signed the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea in 2002.
  • In 2004, China and the Philippines signed an agreement regarding the exploration of resources in the Spratlys, which drew protests from Vietnam.
  • After talks, the three countries signed a tripartite agreement last 2005 on joint marine seismic work in the South China Sea area of cooperation. The extent of the studies under this agreement was not disclosed.

How about putting the Spratlys under international environmental protection and conservation so as not to destroy the pristine islands that serves as biological habitats for birds and fishes? Maybe the claimants, instead of just jockeying for self-interest with regards to its economic potential as far as the oil and natural gas reserves are concerned should just look into its tourism potential, as Malaysia did. This would not only ease the tension over the region but will be a win-win situation for everyone.

I look forward to diving the Spratlys…

If your interested to know more about Spratlys, click on this LINK.


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REFERENCE: Wikipedia, GlobalSecurity.org

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3 Comments

  1. You should invite Dennis to talk about this wonderful site … he and his close-knit group have dived this area to death … 🙂

  2. AHM ITS TOO BEAUTIFUL YOU KNOW THE SPRATLY ISLAND IT IS THE TERITORRY OF THE PHILIPINNES NOT IN CHINA

  3. definitely spratly s part of the philippines..hopefully this issue ends up peacefully in favor to the phillippines..philippines i think not claiming all but only parts of it..is whole south china sea a part of china?spratly is very far from china..also in vietnam…but anyway solve this issue peacefully..nice island..nice biodiversity…so it must belong to the Pearl of the East..the Philippines..just my point of view…


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