ABS-CBN visits Spratly Islands

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

One Sunday evening, while surfing the Net over ABS-CBN, we stumbled upon a documentary that detailed a visit to the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine sea, where there had been a lot of fighting we had often heard about but never really understood. All we knew was that this was the area our country and other Asian nations, particularly the Chinese, were laying claim to this property.

The Philippine military presence on the Spratly Islands has been there for so long that they even got to hold a wedding and celebrate Christmas there. They were supposed to have spent three months in the Spratlys but the Chinese strengthened their watch and now it is running on five months that the Chinese are still there. After consultations with Vietnam that had also its own claim on a portion of the West Philippine sea, the Philippines has brought the matter to the court of justice, giving the Chinese a deadline to solve the problem legally. This is the situation we are at today.

We listen to their stories aired in the documentary titled Spratlys: Mga Isla ng Kalayaan. The documentary looks into the geopolitical issues surrounding the misunderstanding, checks the situation of the Filipino families that have been affected by these unending territorial war with ABS reporter Chiara Zambrano as its anchor. The men confess that lungkot, this overwhelming sadness is what they find most difficult to overcome.  

It was sometime in March this year, on board their own ship, the Sierra Madre Am700, in the company of media and photographers assigned to document the visit, the group from ABS left Manila under cloak of darkness, arriving just when dawn was about to break with the Chinese guards still asleep. 

It must have taken guts for the ABS team to embark on this mission, we mutter to ourselves. They worked quickly, knowing full well they didn’t have all the time. The Chinese guards should not suspect anything out of the ordinary. They delivered the food, water, clothes and enough supplies to last another 30 days. They were taken to the writings on the rocks in the Spratlys, where Philippine troops had put down their names and dates of their presence there. The ABS team visited the school and met the children. Then it was time to go board the Sierra Madre Am700 before anyone noticed their presence and headed for home.

Historically in 1947, a Filipino named Cloma chanced on an uninhabited islet, took it for his own and called it Freedom Land. Then President Ferdinand Marcos took a liking to it, put Cloma in jail and paid him P1. In 1978, Marcos called it the Kalayaan Reef, assigning regular military patrols to it. After the Marcos regime, Kalayaan became part of the Philippine properties. When the time came to apportion these islets to their rightful owners, the Paracel Island was returned to Vietnam and the Spratlys went back to the Philippines.

There are still many such islands belonging to the Philippines like the Rizal Reef which has its barracks located above sea level, the Lawak Island and its millions of sea gulls, and the Patag Island which has a very small detachment and no power, but residents have learned to utilize solar power for lights and rain water for drinking needs. If there is anything the visit of the ABS-CBN team has taught us, it is that the Filipino can and will survive anywhere in the world. 

(Send your comments at [email protected] or text me at 0917-8991835.)











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