Aside from that, the Spratly is very rich in natural resources. Natural gas could be mined under its deep waters in abundance. No wonder why many a nation will have to claim and own these islands as part of their territories. But who really owned the Spratly islands?
The Philippines claimed and owned at least eight of the islands in the Spratly called the Kalayaan group of islands. Kalayaan is the Tagalog word for freedom. The largest island in the Kalayaan group of islands is called "Pag-asa" which in English means hope.
China cites history--to have owned the islands--dating back to the Tang dynasty by which it has also long ago abandoned. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, believed that the islands have been long ago conquered by their ancestors. Spratlys remain a source of tension among the claimants.
The 1898 Treaty of Peace between Spain and the United States declared: “Spain cedes to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands, and comprehending the islands lying within the following line: A line running from west to east along or near the twentieth parallel of north latitude, and through the middle of the navigable channel of Bachi, from the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) to the one hundred and twenty-seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence along the one hundred and twenty seventh (127th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the parallel of four degrees and forty five minutes (4 [degree symbol] 45']) north latitude, thence along the parallel of four degrees and forty five minutes (4 [degree symbol] 45') north latitude to its intersection with the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119 [degree symbol] 35') east of Greenwich, thence along the meridian of longitude one hundred and nineteen degrees and thirty five minutes (119 [degree symbol] 35') east of Greenwich to the parallel of latitude seven degrees and forty minutes (7 [degree symbol] 40') north, thence along the parallel of latitude of seven degrees and forty minutes (7 [degree symbol] 40') north to its intersection with the one hundred and sixteenth (116th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, thence by a direct line to the intersection of the tenth (10th) degree parallel of north latitude with the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich, and thence along the one hundred and eighteenth (118th) degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich to the point of beginning.The United States will pay to Spain the sum of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) within three months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present treaty.” Significantly, the Spratlys lie within those lines demarcated within the treaty limits.
The Philippines's claim over the waters and the maritime zones derive from the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, which grants the country the sole exploitation rights over the natural resources within the Exclusive Economic Zone (which extends to 200 nautical miles around the coastal state) and, more relevant to fossil fuel extraction, to continental shelf (defined as the “natural prolongation of the land mass” up to the same 200 nautical mile limit).
The United States of America will be playing a very important role to help settle out the Spratly issue for good. The Philippines is under a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States which could mean that an attack against the Philippines is an attack against America and vice versa. But China is one of America's biggest trading partners.
China's showing of force and, to some occasions, harassment to any of these claimant nations' troop stationed in the Spratly simply indicate lack of respect to each of these nations' sovereignty. The Philippines will fight for its right in the Spratly as well as for freedom against any invader who will try to trample its sacred shores. China ambitions to become the world's next superpower but to disrespect other much smaller nations' sovereignty and national pride is a character unworthy of a nation desiring to be great. Still, the Philippines is open to diplomatic talks with any of these claimant countries for the peaceful resolution of the said issue.