Editor's Pick News South China Sea: Waters of Contention

​1734 Murillo Velarde map is back in Manila

Sharing the spotlight at the launching of Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s E-Book, “The South China Sea Dispute: Philippine Sovereign Rights and Jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea” at the Manila Polo Club Thursday was a glass- encased 1734 Murillo-Velarde map.

Mel Velarde explains to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III the Murillo-Velarde map he bought in Sotheby auction in London for P12 million.jpg
Mel Velarde explains to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III the Murillo-Velarde map he bought in Sotheby auction in London for P12 million.

This was the map IT businessman Mel Velarde bought in a Sotheby auction on Nov. 4, 2014 for P12 million. A copy of the map was one of the documents used in the case filed by the Philippines against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2013. The Arbitral Court upheld the Philippine position in most of the issues raised in the case.

Velarde said his feeling was of “Jubilation and relief” when he personally collected the map from Sotheby’s London last April 28.

He handcarried the historic map during the 13-hour flight from London arriving in Manila last April 29.

“The signing of the deed of donation with the Solicitor General Jose Calida last April 21, 2017, and the subsequent collection of the map from Sotheby’s London, handed to me personally and to the Assistant Solicitor General Usec. Henry Angeles last April 28, 2017, marked the culmination of a journey that started on Nov 4, 2014 when I participated in the auction of this map,” Velarde said.

History accounts say the Murillo Velarde map was taken out of the Philippines as part of the loot by British forces who invaded the country in 1762. It was acquired by Duke of Northumberland.

The map was among 80 heirlooms that the current Duke of Northumberland, Ralph George Algernon Percy, decided to auction off after a devastating flood hit Northumberland County in April 2012. One of the Duke’s properties is the vast Alnwick Castle, which has been featured as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films.

Velarde is donating the map to the Philippine government as his “gift to the Filipino people.”

“The ownership of the map is every Filipino’s birth right,” he said.

Replicas of the map will be donated to several government institutions and public schools.

The map will be exhibited at the National Museum. There will also be scheduled exhibition in capital cities nationwide.

Velarde said the plan is to formally turn over the map to President Duterte during the Independence Day celebration next month.

Two years ago, VERA Files ran the story on the purchase of the map. For background, read the story here: PH to submit 300-year-old map to UN in case vs China