PALMAS ISLAND, a tiny point of land in the Pacific southeast of Mindanao in the Philippines, has become the subject of international arbitration proceedings between the Netherlands and the United States. The American claim has its origin in the peace settlement which followed the Spanish-American War. The Dutch claim is based on Dutch contact with the island and its natives. Both nations have submitted final briefs and exhibits this year to Dr. Max Huber of Switzerland, one of the panel of judges of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, as sole arbitrator in the case.

Palmas Island is about two miles in length and three-quarters of a mile in width, and contains slightly over 1100 acres of land. It produces cocoanuts, oranges, bananas, and other tropical fruits and vegetables, tobacco and hemp, but its only exports are copra and mats. It appears to have little strategic importance or potential value for communications. Its inhabitants, numbering between 650 and 700 persons, are reported to be divided in their preferences as to rulers, between the Netherlands and the United States.

By the Treaty of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the United States all islands west of the meridian of 127 degrees east longitude and north of the parallel of 4 degrees 45 minutes north latitude. Palmas Island is near 126 degrees 36 minutes east longitude and 5 degrees 35 minutes north latitude, that is to say, in the southeast corner of the zone ceded by Spain close to the line marking its eastern limit. The map on the opposite page, compiled from the best sources available, indicates that the disputed island is 48¾ miles distant from the nearest point of American territory, Cape San Augustin on Mindanao, 51½ miles from the small Nanusa Islands, which form part of the Dutch East Indies, and 60¾ miles from Karkelang, the largest adjacent island under Dutch control.

Spain rested her title to Palmas Island upon Spanish explorations and discoveries, upon the Bulls of Pope Alexander VI, issued in 1493, the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, the Spanish-Portuguese agreement of 1529 with respect to the possession of the Moluccas, and also upon her assertion of jurisdiction for centuries.

The Netherlands Government asserts that Palmas Island has been Dutch territory since the beginning of the 18th century. The Dutch term for the island is Miangas. Certain of the Nanusa Islands, southeast of Palmas Island, appear to have been called for a long time the Meangis Islands. The Palmas Islanders also are said to have acknowledged that they were tributary to the chiefs of certain tribes in islands some distance southwest of Palmas Island, who made political contracts with officials of the Dutch East India Company and, subsequently, the Netherlands Government.

The main point of the American argument is the cession by Spain in 1898. It is supported by a variety of evidence and many maps. The problem laid before Dr. Huber, the arbitrator, might be considered to fall into two parts: first, to determine whether the island belonged in 1898 to Spain or to the Netherlands, and then on the basis of that decision and of supplementary evidence to award it either to the Netherlands or to the United States.

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