Sailing across Indian Ocean, South Pacific by ‘balangay’
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - August 6, 2014 - 12:00am

Following is the second of a three-part series on the ancient history of the Philippines and China, culled from a recent lecture by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio. Entitled “Historical Facts, Lies, and Rights,” his research debunks Beijing’s claim to the entire South China Sea:

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In the early 17th century, Hugo Grotius, the founder of international law, wrote that the oceans and seas of our planet belonged to all mankind, and no nation could claim ownership to the oceans and seas. This revolutionary idea of Hugo Grotius later became the foundation of the law of the sea under international law. Coastal nations could claim as their territorial sea only a narrow belt of coastal waters extending to three miles from their shore, the distance that a cannon ball could travel. The maritime space and resources beyond this three-mile territorial sea belonged to all nations.

2. Under the 1982 UNCLOS, this belt of three-mile territorial sea was extended to 12 NM. Beyond this area up to 200 NM from the baseline of its coast, a coastal state has only specific sovereign rights, like the exclusive right to exploit the living and non-living resources found within this maritime area called the EEZ. Beyond the 12 NM territorial sea and within the 200 NM EEZ, all states have freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight. Beyond the 200 NM EEZ up to 350 NM from the baselines of the coast, the coastal state has only the sovereign right to exploit the non-living resources in its continental shelf, and all states, coastal or landlocked, have a right to exploit the living resources within this same maritime zone. Beyond the 350 NM Extended Continental Shelf lies what is called in UNCLOS as the Area, which is the Common Heritage of Mankind, an area completely belonging to all states, coastal or landlocked.

3. Despite the irrelevance of historical facts, such as ancient discovery, exploration, or conquests, to present-day maritime claims under UNCLOS, China persists in invoking “abundant historical facts” as basis for its nine-dashed line claim. China, however, does not specify what these historical facts are. As a matter of academic exercise, and to present the actual historical facts to the Chinese people, we shall gladly oblige China and discuss the actual historical facts in the South China Sea, beginning 4,000 BC.

4. Some 4,000 to 3,000 BC, people from the southern coast of China migrated to Taiwan, crossing the narrow Taiwan Straits. These migrants were not Chinese because they did not speak Chinese but an early version of the Austronesian language. These migrants cultivated rice and yam, and domesticated pigs and chicken. Over a thousand years they developed in Taiwan the Austronesian language. Then from 2,000 BC onwards they started to migrate to the Batanes Islands, then to Northern Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. About 1,500 BC they reached Borneo and spread to Sulawesi, Java, the Malaysian Peninsula, Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Timor, the Pattani region in Thailand, and the Chams area in Vietnam and Cambodia. Also about 1,500 BC they reached Palau, the Marianas, Guam, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. About 1,000 AD they reached Madagascar, and New Zealand, and thereafter Easter Island and Hawaii.

5. The Austronesian migration is the widest dispersal of people by sea in human history, stretching from Madagascar in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa to Easter Island in the southern Pacific. What binds the people who populated all these far-flung islands is the Austronesian language. The Malayo-Polynesian languages, which include Tagalog, are derived from the Austronesian language. The word Austronesian comes from the Latin word “auster” which means south wind, and the Greek word “nesos” which means island. More than 400 million people speak Austronesian languages. The purest Austronesian languages are found in Taiwan where some one-half million Taiwanese Austronesians, the natives of Taiwan, still live today. The homeland of the Austronesian people is Taiwan.

6. How did the Austronesians migrate over vast distances in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and South China Sea? The answer is the outrigger sailboat -- called balangay in the Philippines, vaka in Hawaii, vawaka in Polynesia, and vahoaka in Madagascar. Prof. Adrian Horridge, in his paper “The Austronesian Conquest of the Sea – Upwind (The Austronesians,” edited by Bellwood, Fox and Tryon, 2006), writes: “The built-up dug-out or planked canoe with an outrigger and sail has been the principal technology for survival and colonization for the sea-going peoples who spread over Island Southeast Asia and far over the Pacific for at least the past few thousand years. We deduce this from the present and presumed past distributions and structures of the canoes. With the ability to carry fire, family, dogs, chickens, tuberous roots, growing shoots and seeds by sea, the Austronesians eventually occupied the Pacific Islands, travelling into Melanesia about 3,500 years ago and onwards into Polynesia.”

7. “Balangay” is an Austronesian word for sailboat. The Austronesians used the balangay for transportation, cargo, and trading. The average size of the balangay was 15 meters in length and 3 to 4 meters in width, and carried 60 to 90 people. One balangay excavated in Butuan was 25 meters in length. The balangay was propelled by buri or nipa fibre sail.

8. Prof. Horridge believes that by 200 BC “Austronesian sailors were regularly carrying cloves and cinnamon to India and Sri Lanka, and perhaps even as far as the coast of Africa in boats with outriggers.” Austronesians from the Moluccas started the spice trade with India and Africa more than 1,700 years before the Portuguese reached the Moluccas.

9. We know from the noted Chinese scholar during the Yuan Dynasty, Ma Tuan-lin, that in 982 AD the early Filipinos were already travelling to Canton to trade. In his book “A General Investigation of the Chinese Cultural Sources,” Ma Tuan-lin wrote about traders from the Philippines, which the Chinese at that time called Mo-yi or Ma-i. Ma Tuan-lin stated in his book, published in 1322 during the Yuan Dynasty and republished in 1935 in Shanghai: “There were traders of the country of Mo-yi carrying merchandise to the coast of Canton [for sale] in the seventh year of Tai-ping-shing-kuo [of the Sung Dynasty, that is 982 AD].”

10. As early as 892 AD, early Filipino traders were already sailing back and forth from the Philippines to China in their balangays to trade, more than 400 years before the Chinese Imperial Admiral Zeng He launched his famous sea voyages from 1405 to 1433 AD. Centuries before Zeng He reached Southeast Asia, early Filipino traders were already regularly travelling to the Moluccas in balangays to trade. This should not be a surprise since the balangays of the Austronesians — the ancestors of the early Filipinos — have conquered the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea in the Bronze Age sailing the same balangays.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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