The History of the Kingdom of Colonia St John1947-1950In the period between 1947 and 1950, the fishing boats belonging to Tomas Cloma, a Philippine citizen of considerable prominence (he had established The Philippine Maritime Institute, a nautical school, in Manila), made a number of visits to the Spratly group of islands in search for better fishing grounds. Cloma considered establishing an ice plant and cannery on Itu Aba, the largest island of the group (approximately 2 square miles in area), and was planning the exploitation of guano.There was at the time some confusion about the identity of the Spratlys, which were frequently referred to as the Paracels. The Paracels lie halfway between the Chinese island of Hainan and the coast of Vietnam.Spratly Island itself, from which the Spratly group takes its name, lies halfway between the southern tip of Palawan (some 300 miles west of it) and Cape St Jacques, Vietnam. Itu Aba lies 180 miles north-east of Spratly Island, while two small North Danger islands lie 60 miles north of Itu Aba and 340 miles west of Palawan.1955Five years after Cloma’s initial visits to the Spratlys, strange stories about a ‘Kingdom of Humanity’, situated somewhere in the South China Sea and populated by some three to four thousand Indonesians, Malays, Chinese, Japanese, Americans and Frenchmen, began to appear in Manila newspapers, originating from one Morton F. Meads, who claimed to have discovered them.The postal authorities in Manila, alerted by the appearance of postage stamps issued by Meads, started an investigation into the affair. The Philippine Armed forces sent an amphibian bomber on a patrol mission over the Spratly group of islands. The patrol took aerial photos of the islands, but they showed no settlements. A view of Itu Aba, however, showed the remains of a wharf and some ruined buildings.Meads, who had initially disappeared but was found by journalists, explained that the buildings on Itu Aba were the remnants of a Japanese submarine base built there during the war. He was subsequently arrested, but the charges against him were eventually dismissed. The military authorities, however, ordered a second flight to the Spratlys and the Vice-President Carlos P. Garcia, who was also Secretary of Foreign Affairs, recommended to President Magsaysay that the Philippines lay claim to the group.The Nationalist Chinese (Taiwanese) Government made clear that it would contest such a move ‘because the islands formed part of their territory’. The matter progressed no further for a while and the public interest in the affair waned.1956It was ignited again the following year when Cloma laid claim to a territory in the South China Sea, apparently including part or whole of the Spratly group. 1/3Cloma and his associates decided to send an expedition to the territory he claimed. The farewell dinner, held on the 1st of March was attended by Vice President Garcia, Senator Lorenzo Tañada and Auditor-General Manuel Agregado. The Maritime Institute’s training ship left on a 38-day scheduled trip, with Captain Filemon Cloma, Tomas’ brother, in command.15/5Cloma wrote to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs informing him that 40 Philippine citizens were undertaking survey and occupation work “in a territory in the China Sea outside the Philippine waters and not within the jurisdiction of any country” and that the said territory was being claimed by him and his associates to which effect due notice had been posted on each of the surveyed and occupied islands, to be subsequently published in the press and sent to the representatives of foreign governments.21/5Cloma sent a ‘Second Representation’ to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, renaming the claimed territory Kalayaan (Freedomland) and enclosing also a ‘Notice of the Change of Names’ of the individual islands, renamed after Philippine political parties, Manila newspapers and periodicals, civic organisations and prominent individuals. Thus Spratly Island itself became Mac Arthur Island, Itu Aba was to be called Ramon Island, and the two North Danger islands were renamed Irenea and Ciriaco.24/5Vice President Garcia received the Nationalist Chinese (Taiwanese) Ambassador who informed him that the islands renamed Freedomland were well known and belonged to Nationalist China. Garcia replied that he would call a conference of Government agencies to discuss the matter.Washington had no official opinion, but a State Department official made ironic comments to the press. The New York Times commented favourably, saying that it would not be illogical for the Philippines to consider adherence. The press in the Philippines did not take the matter seriously.The communist Chinese Kwan Ming Daily said that the Freedomland islands, together with the Spratlys, were in fact Nansha Islands which had been Chinese since the times before Magellan. The South Vietnamese Government in Saigon issued a communiqué stating that the Spratlys and the Paracels had always been part of Vietnam and had been recognised as such in the San Francisco Peace Conference of September 1951.A spokesman for the Republic of China stated that a dispatch of a task force to the Spratlys was “possible and probable”. Garcia was of the opinion that there was no need for alarm and that, should arbitration become necessary at a later stage, the US would be “a fair and just referee”. The Manila press commented that a possible occupation of the islands by Nationalist China might provoke communist China to action.4/6Tomas Cloma made ‘Third Representation’, appealing to the UN “through the friendly agency of the Philippines and the spiritual guidance of the Vatican” to create an arbitrating body composed of friendly powers which would decide on the status of Freedomland, and to undertake trusteeship over Freedomland under the administration and the guidance of the US until the question of ownership is finally resolved. 5/6Vietnamese Minister Cao Thai Bao was reported to have said that the Spratlys had been under the jurisdiction of the French Colonial Government and that the jurisdiction had passed to South Vietnam by virtue of the grant of Sovereignty by France. He pointed out that during the San Francisco Peace Conference Vietnam was the only state to lay claim to the islands, and that leasing them to Cloma or to the Philippine Government might be considered.8/6A Nationalist Chinese patrol, according to their report, visited Spratlys, finding no trace of Cloma’s May expedition. (The patrol was sent to prevent communist China taking over the Spratlys.)The Commander of the American Seventh Fleet, Admiral Stuart Ingersoll, remarked that the US would not approve if communist China were to annexe the Spratlys. The same day, another Cloma expedition set out to bring provisions to the twenty nine men left there by the May expedition (the one the Nationalist Chinese patrol found no trace of). Arriving at Itu Aba, the expedition found that the markers they had put up in March had been removed and that the Nationalist Chinese had added their own sign onto an old Japanese marker, also painting a sign on one of the ruined concrete buildings.9/6The French Charge d’Affaires in Manila informed Juan M. Arreglado, the legal counsellor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, that the Spratlys belonged to France by virtue of an occupation effected in 1932-1933. France had ceded the Paracels to Vietnam, he said, but not the Spratlys. His statement seemed to be supported by the fact that a marker found on Itu Aba bore the words “Isle de France, April 25, 1933”. The ruins there were believed to had been a French fertiliser factory and not (as Meads had originally said) a Japanese submarine base. Vice President Garcia responded by saying that, with respect of Cloma’s expedition, he had warned Cloma not to do anything that could have political repercussions of any kind.The same day, a South Vietnam Legation spokesman said that the Spratlys were officially incorporated in the Vietnamese province of Baria in 1929. When the French officially took possession in 1930, they notified the US, China, the Philippines and the Netherlands. Only Japan protested but officially renounced its claim in the Peace Treaty of 1952. Consequently, the French transfer of sovereignty included both the Spratlys and the Paracels. 15/6The Department of Foreign Affairs received confidential reports that the Dutch Government was about to stake its own claim over the disputed islands, with the backing of the UK.The same day, Cloma made a ‘Fourth Representation’, stating that two small islands near Spratly Island, not previously included in the map of Freedomland, had been discovered. He also reported the sighting of an alien ship off the Palawan coast, which refused to answer Filemon Cloma’s attempts at communication.16/6Vietnamese Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a detailed statement to the press in Saigon concerning the Vietnamese claim to the Spratlys and the Paracels. 17/6The Foreign Affairs Association of the Philippines adopted a resolution signed by Manuel V. Gallego, which they sent to the President, the Vice President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and to Cloma, declaring that the islands constituting Freedomland were ‘res nullius’ and that consequently Cloma’s claim was legal. The resolution urged the Philippine Government to ascertain that – ideally supported by the US – UN trusteeship was to be sought (to be administered by the Philippines), and that Cloma should have full support of the Government. 20/6Cloma made a “Fourth Representation” (fifth, in fact) to the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying that his second expedition had inspected all the islands of Freedomland except Spratly Island (in deference to Nationalist China). This representation followed a letter to the Chinese Ambassador stating that the expedition had erected a radio station on Itu Aba and had left settlers who had commenced planting bananas and other native crops. In the letter, Cloma also pointed out that until the question of ownership was settled, he had the right to protect a res nullius property of which he was guardian.Cloma next made plans to acquire a LST vessel and some fishing boats from New Zealand, through the agency of a Mr Donald Trayler. Prompted by Trayler, he also made plans for organising a government for Freedomland. Trayler had pointed out that occupation of a discovered territory must immediately be accompanied by establishing a governing authority over such a territory. No claim, Trayler said, should be made unless one was prepared to establish a government. This also meant that, in the event of being driven out of Freedomland, the government could establish its seat anywhere and fight for its rights from exile. 6/7Cloma presented a paper to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, signed by Manuel Aguilar as Acting State Secretary of Freedomland, announcing the establishment of a separate Government for the Archipelago of Freedomland. Attached was a printed “Instrument of Notification” which specified that the seat of Government was at Pagasa, Freedomland, with representative offices in Manila. “The Proclamation” was also attached, giving the date of establishment of Government as 17/6/1956, and describing the nature of the Government as democratic. The name of the state was given as Free Territory of Freedomland, and full geographical specification of boundaries was made. In the first instance, Freedomland adopted the laws of the Philippines. The intention to seek status as protectorate under the Republic of Philippines was announced.The same day Cloma issued a statement to the press defending and justifying his decision to form a government, lest the Philippines be embarrassed by any acts of self-defence that Freedomland might need to take in the future. 7/7As the first act of the new Government, Cloma formally delivered the Nationalist Chinese flag removed from Itu Aba to the Nationalist Chinese Embassy in Manila. The Manila press rebuked him for this action.21/7Dr Bernabe Africa, former professor of political science and former Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, published a statement in the Evening News, saying that the Spratlys, occupied by the Japanese during the war, had become Allied war booty with Japanese defeat, and, as the Japanese claim was the only one recognised at the San Francisco Peace Conference, the Allied Powers had jurisdiction over the islands. China, not an Allied Power, by that fact alone if not for other reasons, could not have a claim on the Spratlys. 28/8Paris and Saigon reported that a South Vietnamese naval party had planted its flag on Spratly island on August 22nd.30/8This was confirmed by a Vietnamese Government spokesman. Communist China reacted angrily.31/8A Chinese newspaper in Taipei stated that Nationalist Chinese officials had mapped out plans to settle the Spratlys, assert sovereignty and develop the archipelago’s resources. 1/10Captain Filemon Cloma, who had been designated Administrator over Freedomland met with trouble off Ciriaco Island where he was lying at anchor. Two nationalist Chinese ships approached from the south and invited Captain Cloma aboard for a conference. A discussion over ownership ensued, during which Cloma was below deck, unaware that a boarding party had searched his vessel and confiscated all arms, maps and documents. Captain Cloma protested but was treated discourteously and kept under detention until allowed to rejoin his boat. The next day he was once more invited aboard the Chinese ship. There, even under threat to their lives, Cloma and his officers refused to recognise that Freedomland was Chinese territory and to sign a statement that they would leave Freedomland and never come back. Cloma was forced to surrender arms for which he was given a receipt, whereupon the Chinese ship left Ciriaco.Captain Cloma found that the houses on Ciriaco and Irenea had been removed, and the buildings on Abad Santos Island burned down.Tomas Cloma reported this to the Foreign Affairs Association, mentioning that a French light cruiser had visited Itu Aba (Mac Arthur Island) and that some Vietnamese ships had visited Freedomland in August. To avoid conflict, he said, trusteeship of the UN, administered by the US, should be initiated. He even went to the UN to demand the initiation of trusteeship, but was dissuaded from action by the Philippine Ambassador. The press began urging the Philippine Government to unambiguously declare for or against Cloma.13/12Cloma wrote to the Chinese Ambassador in Manila, expressing concern about reports that the Nationalist Government had granted some private businessmen the authority to undertake mining surveys. Surveys of the natural resources of Freedomland had already been done by Cloma, and surface mining of phosphates had been in progress for some time, with 4000 tonnes standing ready for shipment to New Zealand and Japanese buyers. Cloma mentioned that in the event of trouble he could raise some 2000 young men to the defence of Freedomland.14/12He then wrote to President Magsaysay, saying that the Chinese action had forced him to disclose the existence of his mining operations in Freedomland.20/12The Foreign Affairs Association adopted its Second Resolution concerning Freedomland. The Resolution described Filemon Cloma and his officers as victims of a ruse by the naval personnel of Nationalist China. It dismissed any possibility of a Chinese claim on either the Spratlys or Freedomland, referring to Dr Bernabe Africa’s statement. It rebuked the Philippine Government for not condemning the Chinese action and not protesting against it. It supported Africa’s opinion that Spratlys were Allied booty, mentioning further that the San Francisco Peace Treaty failed to dispose of the Spratlys and that the Allies were still the only body with jurisdiction over the archipelago. It declared that the occupation of the Spratlys by an unfriendly power would be threat to the Philippines and recommended that the President should take action, and, if such action were not to be taken, that Freedomland and the Spratlys be placed as trusteeship under the UN, with the US as the Administering Authority. Failing that, the Foreign Affairs Association of the Philippines Inc. would be free to take whatever action was necessary. The Resolution was signed by Manuel Gallego.19578/2The Vice President and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs replied, clarifying certain important issues: -That the Spratlys were a seven-island group. -That Freedomland included some of Spratly Islands.-That the rest of Freedomland was made up of uninhabited, uncharted and newly risen islands (risen, that is, in the 20th century).-That all Freedomland, save for the islands which belonged to the Spratly group, were resnullius.-That Philippine nationals, as well as any other nationals, have therefore the right to exploit and settle them.-That the Spratlys, considered Allied booty and not having been disposed of in the San Francisco peace Conference, were equally open for settlement and exploitation by the nationals of any Allied Power as long as the status quo remained.-That it was in the interest of the Philippine Government to support legitimate ventures in exploitation and settlement of the said territory.Five weeks later President Magsaysay was assassinated. The new President, Garcia, made Serrano Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Serrano planned to deal with the Freedomland issue but somehow failed to do so.19596Cloma learned that some Taiwanese merchants were selling phosphates which had come from Freedomland in Japan. He went to Japan to find out whether it was true and later said that the merchants could have got to one of his islands unobserved. He threatened bloodshed, mentioning ominously that a hundred-strong crew on his fishing boats had side-arms and home-made bombs. He seemed to have spoken to Serrano and Garcia about the affair, without tangible results.1960Cloma initiated agreements with a Hong Kong company for the exploitation of Freedomland’s resources and suggested that the Philippines regard Freedomland imports as coming from a foreign country, which should help prevent smuggling. The Government took no action.197110/7President Marcos issued and read a press statement concerning Freedomland, saying that his Foreign Office had requested the Nationalist Chinese Government to withdraw its garrison from Itu Aba (known to the Chinese under the name of Ligaw), which, being one of the Spratlys, belonged to the Allied war booty and no one was permitted to introduce troops to it without the consent of the Allies. The Chinese occupation of Itu Aba, Marcos said, was a threat to the national security of the Philippines.In the same statement, President Marcos spoke about Freedomland, defining it as a 53-island group (the number, of the islands being, in fact, 99) – with the exclusion of the Spratlys – registered as res nullius and as such explored and occupied by Cloma. Marcos said that he had taken steps to protect Freedomland and that the Philippines were in occupation and control of the islands of Pagasa, Lawak and Patag. In reality, the occupation amounted to establishing a two-man weather station on Pagasa.Following this statement, the Governments of Great Britain and the Netherlands announced the abandonment of their rights as trustees over Spratly Islands. In the Philippine Congress, two Congressmen, Representatives Mitra and Barbero, filed a bill appropriating P 1 million for the development of Freedomland which the Philippines was now claiming. According to the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the Freedomland islands were considered part of the Province of Palawan.19723At the 72nd meeting of the Seabed Committee of the United Nations, the Philippines reiterated their ungrounded claim on Freedomland, acknowledging that the Seabed Committee was not an appropriate body to adjudicate on such matters, but at the same time saying that it was impossible not to react to the claim made by the People’s Republic of china to Nanchiao Island known in the Philippines as Lawak Island and being part of Freedomland. The Philippine representative added that the 53 islands of Freedomland were at that moment under the occupation and control of the Philippine Government “which is open and adverse to all claims”.24/4Cloma constituted an Advisory Council for the Government of Freedomland with Dr Juan Arreglado as Chairman, a former Philippine parliamentary representative, Jose C. de Venecia as Honorary Chairman and a attorney Mena Q Teganas, as Council Secretary. De Venecia asked the Philippine Government to either support Cloma’s claim or acquire the claim from him to give validity to the Philippine claim on the territory.1974Early in the year, Cloma and the Supreme Council of Freedomland drafted a new Constitution, changing the country’s status to Principality. The new Constitution encouraged the colonisation of the territory by people from around the world. New citizens from European and Asian countries were naturalised, and some of them elected to the Supreme Council. Prince John B de Mariveles was among them.Cloma was alarmed at the deterioration of the political system in the Philippines: martial law had been declared, under which curfews were imposed and detentions without trial permitted. This was unacceptable to freedom-loving Cloma. He announced his resignation as Head of State, because of his advanced age (71) and the fact that he was a Philippine citizen.That year vast mineral wealth was discovered in Freedomland and the Philippines had designs on it. To further emphasise and define the sovereignty and the openness to colonisation of Freedomland, he asked the Supreme Council to issue a proclamation changing the name of the country to Colonia, and to elevate its status to the ‘Kingdom of Colonia’. That done, Cloma retired and resigned from the Supreme Council and as Head of State in favour of Prince John de Mariveles. 24/8The succession documents were prepared by council secretary Mena Q Teganas and notarised by the Notary Public in Kalayaan, and later (5/11/1974) sworn in Manila before Rufino Santos, Notary Public (as Documents 1096 and 1097, Book XLV, page 21, series of 1974) by all the Supreme Council, consisting of Stephano P. Kaufman, Rudolph Shoppman, the Governor General Eric Sroka, Tomas Cloma and Filemon Cloma, and accepted by Prince John. The Document 1097 changed the name of the state to the Kingdom of Colonia. Tomas Cloma confirmed his resignation and Prince John was elected as Head of State with absolute power. A new Constitution was approved for the kingdom, the Secretariat in Manila closed and the new seat of the Government-in-exile established in Labuan, Sabah (part of Malaysia). 11Soon after in November, Cloma was arrested under martial law, on direct orders from President Marcos and under a trumped-up charge. He was incarcerated at Camp Crame in Manila and held without trial or notification to his family. In spite of the worldwide reaction of his family and friends and the pressure they put up on President Marcos, it was only a month later that Cloma, in declining health, was released after having been forced to sign a Deed of Cession to Marcos. (The current Philippine claim on Colonia is based entirely on that Deed of Cession. The deed, however, has no legal validity, as Cloma retired as Head of State previous to signing it and was thus at the time without authority to sign anything on behalf of Colonia. Moreover, upon his release Cloma renounced the Deed of Cession as it had been obtained under duress. Instead, he recertified all the succession documents with Prince John who remains dedicated to Cloma’s original aims and ideas, intending the wealth of Colonia to be shared with the sick and the needy in South East Asia, and the benefit of her natural resources with all countries.) Upon the removal of the seat of Government to Labuan, the officials were received by Tun Mustapha, at the time the Chief Minister of Sabah, by the Minister of Finance and by local Members of Parliament.1975The Government of the Kingdom of Colonia signed and registered agreements with a Malaysian company of Datuk Harris Salleh, for the joint commercial mining of guano and phosphate rock in Colonia.Following a presentation to the Malaysian Federal Government in Kuala Lumpur made by Tun Daol Stevens, Governor and Chief Minister of Sabah, an invitation for Colonia to become a state of the Malaysian Federation was extended to the Supreme Council. The Council graciously acknowledged the invitation but declined by reason of tradition and out of regard for Cloma’s dream for the complete independent sovereignty of Colonia. This refusal did not damage the friendly relations with Malaysia which accepted Colonian passports for entry and entered further commercial ventures with the Kingdom. The Secretariat remained in Labuan.1976The Kingdom of Colonia presented documents of recently discovered vast national mineral wealth to Malaysia. The information in the documents was so interesting that Malaysia commenced occupation of Swallow Reef, a territory adjacent to the south border of the Kingdom but not part of the Kingdom itself. Thus the Malaysian action presented no threat to Colonia’s territorial integrity and gave rise to no dispute.From its seat in Labuan, the Supreme Council appointed Ambassadors and made diplomatic advances with several countries in South East Asia and around the world in an effort to resolve the sovereignty dispute. Efforts to advance the issue to the International Court in Hague were made.1981Prince John de Mariveles created his Dynastic Royal Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem (Ecumenical). In the light of the Order’s chivalric ideals, its dedication to the holy tradition and above all its open ecumenical character which echoed Tomas Cloma’s own passionate championing of freedom, Prince John and the Supreme Council granted the Order sovereignty in the Kingdom under his rule. It was decreed that ‘St John’ be appended to the name of the country. All the accredited diplomatic representation of the Kingdom of Colonia St John around the world was henceforth carried on by the Order of St John under its Grand Master Prince John.19863In March, British Legal Counsel made a search at the International Court in Hague, establishing that there were no claims against the Kingdom of Colonia St John, formerly Freedomland.1988-90Lord Harold Wilson the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom presented the Kingdom’s position to the Government of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on three separate occasions, in an effort to arrange a peaceful resolution to China’s claims. No conclusive solution to the problem was reached at the time. Indeed Lord Wilsons brief was to seek close ties with and friendship with the Peoples Republic of China.1991The Bandung Conference of the South China Sea, in Indonesia, was organised to attempt a treaty partition of the area by foreign claimants. The Kingdom made representation to the delegates that the objective of the conference, that is, the wholesale distribution of the territory amongst themselves, was illegal and in violation of international law. Attempts by the conference participants to proceed were thereupon abandoned.1998China and the Philippines agreed to form a committee to agree a code of conduct to prevent conflicts and expansionism in the area1999Officials of ASEAN agreed to form a draft code of conduct to prevent claimants fighting amongst themselves. It was noted that no attempt was made to dispute the sovereign claim of the Kingdom, but only to enjoin foreign claimants from contentious hostilities.20001/1The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea extended the principles of international law regarding territorial claims offshore with regard to a country’s continental shelf.The 1982 convention created a number of guidelines concerning the status of islands, the continental shelf, and territorial limits. The guidelines relevant to the Kingdom are:1.Article 3, which established that “every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.2.Articles 55-75 define the concept of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is an area up to 200 nautical miles beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea. The EEZ gives coastal states “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources of the waters adjacent, the seabed, and its subsoil.”The Kingdom extended its Exclusive Economic Zone to 200 nautical miles beyond its 12 nautical mile territorial waters.2003Shell Oil began development of the Malampaya Gas Field off Palawan, a $15B project. A legal dispute between the Province of Palawan and the Government of the Philippines for a share of gas revenues resulted in the Phillippine government abandoning its claim to the territory under the supposed Cloma Deed of Cession. The Philippines instead restated its claim to part of the territory under the 200 nautical mile EEZ. The action had the result of voiding the rights of the Province of Palawan to claim gas revenues from the central government, and thereby voided the claims of the Philippines to the territories of the Kingdom2004Sinochem, the state oil company of China, made representations to the Kingdom to discuss possible hydrocarbon exploration and development.2006It was reported that representation from the Republic of China was made to the Chinese government in Beijing on the subject of transfer of claims in the territory. The Beijing government responded to the Republic of China that they had no valid claim, and rejected the overture.The presentThe current situation in Colonia St John reflects border disputes with neighbouring powers attempting to compete for the natural resources. As a result of the security situation citizens are advised to avoid travel to the territory. As an unfortunate consequence of the security situation potential development of the resources has been discouraged. On another disconcerting note, there have been reports of piracy in the waters.There have been reports that some of the original Colonia settlers have stayed behind, but their fate is at the moment unknown as visits to the Kingdom for the purpose of establishing whether those citizens are alive or dead continue to be under security restriction.