Free Territory of Freedomland
Flag of Freedomland
The Spratly Islands
• Leader
Tomás Cloma (1956–1974)
John de Mariveles (1974)
• "Notice to the Whole World"
May 15, 1956
• Establishment
May 31, 1956
• Renaming to Colonia
August 1974
• "Acquisition" by the Philippines
September 1974
• Established
• Disestablished
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Colonia St. John

The Free Territory of Freedomland was a micronation that covered the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea from 1956 to 1974. It was established by Tomás Cloma.


While China, Japan, the Philippines, and many other nations have been in the South China Sea for many centuries, this article discusses Tomás Cloma Sr.'s claim to Freedomland for the Philippines.

In January 1935, the Committee of Reviewing Water and Land Maps of the Republic of China published both Chinese names and English names of 132 insular features in the South China Sea.[1]

In 1947, it was reported that Captain Filemon Cloma (Tomás Cloma Sr.'s brother) was fishing off Palawan[2][3][4][5] when Typhoon Jennie forced him to seek shelter, leading his group of fishing vessels west of Palawan, into the Spratlys.[6] The group discovered a vast frontier which served as good fishing grounds.[4][5] Filemon and his brother Tomás consulted their maps, but could not find the islands on them. Tomás Cloma Sr. hoped to set up a fish cannery[4][7] and mine for guano.[7] Japan had considered the area a potential source for extracting guano since the 1920s[8] and agreed to fund an expedition led by Filemon and his crew to explore the islands.[4]

In 1950, Philippine President Elpidio Quirino said that "as long as Taiwan held the Spratlys, the Philippines would not press its own claim".[1]

On March 15, 1956, Filemon Cloma, funded by his brother, landed on the islands with a group of men.[7] On May 11, 1956, Filemon Cloma led 40 men in taking formal possession of the islands,[9][10] lying some 380 miles (612 km) west of the southern end of Palawan and named them Freedomland.[1] Tomás Cloma Sr. then issued his "Notice to the Whole World."[11] Filemon Cloma led a 40-man Filipino crew in hoisting a Filipino flag on one of the islands of Freedomland, and posted copies of that notice, along with possession notices on each of the islands[12][2]- 53 islands and islets with a total area of 64,976 square miles.[12][2][7] Tomás Cloma Sr. asserted that the territory was without owner, since Japan renounced ownership in the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951.[2]

On May 21, 1956, Tomás Cloma Sr. declared the establishment of the Free Territory of Freedomland.[7] Ten days later, he sent his second representation to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs informing the latter that the territory claimed was named Freedomland. Tomás Cloma Sr. appointed a government to Freedomland, including government personnel Secretary of State: Manuel Aguilar; Minister of Foreign Affairs: Donald Trayler; Minister of Transportation: Virgilio G. Cloma; Minister of Maritime Affairs: Filemon Cloma; Minister of Commerce: Rizal Cloma; Minister of Justice: Santiago Pastor, Jr.; and Finance Minister: Teodora Agbayani.[citation needed]

On July 6, 1956, Cloma declared to the world his claim and establishment of a separate government with its capital on Flat Island (also known as Patag Island).

On October 1, 1956, at North Danger Reef[13] in the South China Sea,[14][15][16] two Taiwanese ships-[17][18] namely, the Ning Yuan (寧遠) flotilla of the Taiwanese Navy,[14] containing naval vessels Taihe and Yongshun-[15][16] approached Filemon Cloma's expedition with the boat PMI-IV[10][7][12][3] and invited Captain Cloma (and Chief Engineer Benito Danseco, and other crew members[15][16]) aboard [the naval vessel Tai He[15][16]] for a conference.[19]

After the Taiwanese government's building burning and confiscation of property, Tomás and Filemon Cloma agitated for the Government of the Philippines to support their claims to Freedomland.[9][10][19][20][8]

In 1972, Tomás Cloma Sr. was jailed by Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos for four months for "impersonating a military officer by being called an "admiral".[21] In August 1974, Tomás Cloma Sr. and the Supreme Council of Freedomland drafted a new Constitution, declaring the country to be a Principality and encouraging its colonization. New citizens were naturalised, and some of them elected to the Supreme Council, John de Mariveles among them. In August, Cloma changed the name of the country from Freedomland to Colonia and retired as titular head of state in favor of John de Mariveles with the title of Prince.[22]

In December 1974, Tomás Cloma Sr. was arrested and forced to sign a document to convey to the Philippines whatever rights he might have had in the territory for one peso.[23][10] There are Philippine claims that they acquired the territory through that document.

In 1978, the Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1596 to include the majority of the Spratly Islands as being Philippine territory.[1][10]

Colonia St. John

The Freedomland principality later became known as Kingdom of Colonia St. John, Cloma stepped down as leader of the micronation in the August 1974, and was succeeded by John I, the first king of Colonia.[24]


On June 11, 1978, Philippine president Ferdinand E. Marcos issued a decree formally incorporating the Kalayaan Island Group, an area of the Spratly Islands which covers the land claimed by Freedomland or Colonia St. John, into its national territory as the Municipality of Kalayaan.[25] Republic Act No. 9522, which defined the archipelagic baselines of the Philippines, also claimed sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group.[26]

Key figures

Tomás Cloma

Tomás Arbolente Cloma Sr. (born Tomás Cloma y Arbolente; 18 September 1904 – 18 September 1996) was the leader and founder of Freedomland. He was a Filipino lawyer and businessman from the province of Bohol. Cloma was born in Panglao to Ciriaco Cloma y Arbotante, a Spanish immigrant, and Irenea Arbolente y Bongay, a native of Panglao, Bohol.[27][21] He was the owner of a fishing fleet, and owner of a private maritime training institute, the PMI Colleges (formerly known as Philippine Maritime Institute). He aspired to open a cannery and develop guano deposits in the Spratlys. It was principally for economic reasons, therefore, that he claimed islands in the Spratlys.[6]

Filemon Cloma

Filemon Ciriaco Cloma (21 March 1921 - 14 April 1979) explored Freedomland. He was a Filipino soldier and businessman who served in the US Army Corps. under General Douglas MacArthur, during World War II (WWII). Cloma was born in Panglao to Ciriaco Cloma y Arbotante, a Spanish immigrant, and Irenea Arbolente y Bongay, a native of Panglao. He faked his age and a US citizenship to fight in the Signal Corps (United States Army) during the WWII Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and was chosen by Gen. MacArthur to serve as a code and cipher specialist. He escaped the Bataan Death March, and was engaged in guerilla warfare under the command of Lt. Col. Wendell Fertig in the 10th Military District (Tenth United States Army) until the end of World War II. After the war, he founded a sea exploration business which hired the soldiers trained by PMI Colleges, owned by his brother[28][29] Tomás Cloma Sr. Filemon Cloma later led men on an expedition funded by Tomás Cloma Sr. to explore Freedomland and claim it for the Philippines.

Relevance for the Philippines

Cloma introduced a distinction between his Freedomland and the Spratlys further west. This distinction later became part of the Philippines' foreign policy. This distinction was never fully clarified. It seems that Freedomland encompasses most of what others call the Spratly Islands, but not Spratly Island itself, nor the banks and reefs lying to the west of it.[20]

Cloma's declaration was met with hostile reactions from several neighboring countries, especially Taiwan. On September 24, 1956, Taiwan reoccupied nearby Itu Aba Island (also known as Taiping Island), which it had left in 1950, and intercepted Cloma's men and vessels found within its immediate waters. The People's Republic of China also restated its own claim afterward.[20]

In 2014 The Philippines sought adjudication of a territorial dispute with China at the International Court of Arbitration.[30] In its pleadings, the Philippines abandoned efforts to assert succession to the Cloma Claim, and instead asserted a 200-mile territorial claim as an exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.[citation needed] As a consequence, Freedomland (AKA Colonia) became the only successor claimant to the Cloma territory.[31][failed verification]

The Free Territory of Freedomland should not be confused with the Principality of Freedomland or the Republic of Koneuwe which was set up by a French swindler also in the Spratlys but not on the same islands.[32]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Shicun Wu; Keyuan Zou (2 March 2016). Arbitration Concerning the South China Sea: Philippines Versus China. Routledge. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-1-317-17989-4.
  2. ^ a b c d Ramos, Mosch. "Spratly Islands: 1 Territory + 6 Countries = A Regional Crisis". Scribd. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b Granados, Ulises (2009). "Ocean Frontier Expansion and the Kalayaan Islands Group Claim: Philippines' Postwar Pragmatism in the South China Sea". International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. 9 (2): 273–274. doi:10.1093/irap/lcn029. JSTOR 26159412.
  4. ^ a b c d Chin, Chin. "Potential for Conflict in the Spratly Islands" (PDF). Naval Postgraduate School. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 3, 2020. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b Osena, Leuel (31 March 2009). "Baseline Law- the Background Story of Kalayaan Islands". The Maritime Observer. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  6. ^ a b Baker & Wiencek 2002, pp. 19, 29–30 (Footnote 21, citing Samuels 1982, pp. 81–86)
  7. ^ a b c d e f Handle:我要改昵称. "Chapter 72 Chapter 3 Danger and Mischief 1946-1995".
  8. ^ a b Tønnesson, Stein (2001). "An International History of the Dispute in the South China Sea" (PDF). East Asian Institute: 6. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  9. ^ a b Handle:Secretariat. "The History of the Kingdom of Colonia St John". Kingdom of Colonia St John: Information Services. Archived from the original on July 24, 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e Doyo, Ma. Ceres (25 June 2015). "The Old Man and the Sea". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  11. ^ Severino, Rodolfo (2011). Where in the World Is the Philippines?: Debating Its National Territory. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 67–69. ISBN 9789814311717. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Nguyen, Gia. "Sử gia bị đạo sử (PHẦN BA)". Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  13. ^ The office of the Honourable Senator Thanh Hai Ngo; Labrosse, Vincent; Wilson, Angus (15 February 2017). Disputes in the South China Sea (PDF). p. 48.
  14. ^ a b "Exhibition of Historical Archives on the Southern Territories of the Republic of China: A Chronology of Major Events". Kuomintang Official Website. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  15. ^ a b c d Handle:Seasresearch (23 March 2016). "Position Paper on ROC South China Sea Policy". South China Sea: Facts and Legal Aspects. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China; Lin, David. "Peace in the South China Sea, National Territory Secure Forever: Position Paper on ROC South China Sea Policy" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  17. ^ Hayton, Bill (28 January 2014). The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. Yale University Press. pp. 65–68. ISBN 9780300189544.
  18. ^ 伍俐斌. "20世纪50年代台菲之间关于南沙群岛主权争执的历史考察" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  19. ^ a b Tsu-sung, Hsieh (13 March 2018). South China Sea Disputes, The: Historical, Geopolitical And Legal Studies. World Scientific. p. 107. ISBN 9789813234901. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Kivimäki 2002, p. 13
  21. ^ a b DFA lodges diplomatic protest on Spratlys harassment incident. Archived., April 6, 2011.
  22. ^ Greiman, Virginia A. (February 15, 2014). "A Model for Collaborative Development in the South China Sea". The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business. 1 (1): 31–40. doi:10.13106/jafeb.2014.vol1.no1.31.. ISSN 2288-4645.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: ignored DOI errors (link)
  23. ^ Womack 2006, p. 218 (Footnote 18)
  24. ^ Umali, Justin (20 May 2019). "Tomas Cloma, the Modern Magellan of the Philippines, Conquered Kalayaan Islands". Esquire. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  25. ^ "Presidential Decree No. 1596, s. 1978". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. June 11, 1978.
  26. ^ "Republic Act No. 9522". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. 10 March 2009. Archived from the original on 14 August 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  27. ^ "Film # 007769949 Image Film # 007769949; ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSM8-74XP-Z —". FamilySearch. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  28. ^ "Tomas Cloma". My Heritage. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  29. ^ Cloma, Nerio (4 August 2009). "Ciriaco Cloma Clan of Panglao". Cloma: Welcome to the History Blog of the Cloma Clans of the Philippines. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  30. ^ The Republic of the Philippines v. The People's Republic of China
  31. ^ Kingdom of Colonia St John Website
  32. ^ Macdonald, Ian. "Spratly Islands". Retrieved 30 June 2013.