MALACANANG denounced China’s move to rename several undersea features in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) and has raised its concern through the Philippine Embassy in Beijing.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Wednesday, a day after Jay Batongbacal, maritime law expert, was quoted in a report as saying that the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved five names China proposed in 2017.
The communist state claimed that these undersea features were “discovered by the Li Shiguang Hao ship of the China Navy Hydrographic Office in a survey in 2004.
Roque added that the Philippines was also considering a recommendation to notify the International Hydrographic Organization-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (IHO-IOC GEBCO) Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN).
“The Philippines, as many of you [may]know, is not a member of the SCUFN, which is composed of 12 members. China’s proposals to rename some undersea features in the Philippines were submitted to SCUFN during its meetings in Brazil on Oct 12 to 16, 2015 and Sept 19 to 23, 2017,” Roque said.
Batongbacal said that three names were submitted for consideration by the IHO in 2014 while the China Ocean Minerals R and D Association submitted two in 2016.
The features named by China were the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts, located at about 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; the Haidonguing Seamount further east of the area at 190 nautical miles and the Cuigjao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province itself.
Batongbacal said the features were within the 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, which means that these were within the “legal” continental shelf of the Philippines and that no claim process was needed.
Roque said on Monday that the Philippine government would not do anything to prevent China’s military build-up in the seven reefs being claimed by the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
Roque said all the government could do for now was to monitor and rely on China’s “principle of good faith.”
Roque announced on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to forestall all existing marine explorations at the Benham Rise to give way to local research.
However, the cessation of foreign research activities does not mean a ban, Roque said. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA