Tomás Arbolente Cloma Sr. (born Tomás Cloma y Arbolente; 18 September 1904 – 18 September 1996) was a Filipino lawyer and businessman from the province of Bohol.[2] Cloma was born in Panglao to Ciriaco Cloma y Arbotante and Irenea Arbolente y Bongay, who were both natives of Panglao.[1][2]

He is best known for establishing the micronation of Freedomland in the Spratly Islands.

Life and career

Tomas Cloma Sr., owner of a fishing fleet, and owner of the private maritime training institute, the PMI Colleges (formerly known as Philippine Maritime Institute), aspired to open a cannery and develop guano deposits in the Spratlys. It was principally for economic reasons, therefore, that he "discovered" and claimed islands in the Spratlys.[3]

Events related to discovery of islands in the Spratlys

Flag of the Free Territory of Freedomland.[4]

In January 1935, the Committee of Reviewing Water and Land Maps of China (ROC) published both Chinese names and English names of 132 insular features in the South China Sea.[5]

In April 1935, the Committee of Reviewing Water and Land Maps of China (ROC) published map with locations of feature in the South China Sea.[5]

In 1947, it was reported that Tomás Cloma "discovered" certain island in the Spratlys[3]

In 1950, Philippine President Quirino said that "as long as China (ROC) held the Spratlys, the Philippines would not press its own claim".[5]

On May 11, 1956, Tomas Cloma Sr. together with 40 men, took formal possession of the islands, lying some 380 miles (612 km) west of the southern end of Palawan and named them Freedomland.[5]

On May 15, 1956, Cloma issued and posted copies of his "Notice to the Whole World" on each of the islands as a manifestation of unwavering claims over the territory.

On May 31, 1956, Cloma declared the establishment of the Free Territory of Freedomland, ten days later he sent his second representation to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs informing the latter that the territory claimed was named Freedomland.

In latest June 1956, Cloma stole the China(ROC)'s national flag from the Taiping Island[6]

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

On July 7, 1956, after China (ROC) protested, Cloma surrendered the flag he stole to the Chinese embassy in Manila, and apologized officially.[6]

On Oct 2, 1956, he wrote a letter and ensured he would not make further training voyages or landings in the territorial waters of China (ROC).[6]

In the 1972 Cloma was jailed by Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos for four months for "impersonating a military officer by being called an ‘admiral’".[2] In August 1974 Cloma changed the name of the country from Freedomland to Colonia. At that same time he retired as Head of State in favour of John de Mariveles.

In December 1974, Cloma 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.[7] There are Philippine claims that they acquired the territory through that document.

However the fact is that from August 1974, Cloma no longer had any territorial or sovereign rights to convey.[8]

In 1978, the Philippine president issued Presidential Decree No. 1596 to include majority of the Spratly Islands.[5]

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.[9]

Cloma's declaration was met with hostile reactions from several neighboring countries, especially the Republic of China, or Taiwan. On September 24, 1956 the ROC 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, or Mainland China, also restated its own claim.[9]

In 2014 The Philippines sought adjudication of territorial dispute with China at the International Court of Arbitration.[10] In its pleadings, the Philippines abandoned efforts to assert succession to the Cloma Claim, and instead asserted a 200-mile territorial claim under EEZ Law of the Sea. As a consequence, Colonia became the only successor claimant to the Cloma territory.[11]

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.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Film # 007769949 Image Film # 007769949; ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSM8-74XP-Z — FamilySearch.org". Retrieved April 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c DFA lodges diplomatic protest on Spratlys harassment incident. Archived., April 6, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Baker & Wiencek 2002, pp. 19, 29–30 (Footnote 21, citing Samuels 1982, pp. 81–86)
  4. ^ a b Macdonald, Ian. "Spratly Islands". Flagspot.net. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e 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. 
  6. ^ a b c Fu, Kuen-Chen. South China Sea: Conflict Or Cooperation?. [time needed]
  7. ^ Womack 2006, p. 218 (Footnote 18)
  8. ^ Virginia A. Greiman, A Model for Collaborative Development in the South China Sea, Metropolitan College, Boston University, Received: November 1, 2013 Revised: February 2, 2014 Accepted: February 15, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Kivimäki 2002, p. 13
  10. ^ The Republic of the Philippines v. The People's Republic of China
  11. ^ Kingdom of Colonia St John Website