MALACAÑANG on Wednesday said that it objects the reported move of China to name at least five undersea features in the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise).
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said in a statement sent to media.
Roque made this remark after a maritime law expert, Dr. Jay Batongbacal, said in a Facebook post on Monday that the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved in 2017 the names proposed by China.
Batongbacal is director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
“Last year, the International Hydrographic Organization approved the names proposed by China. Three of the features were reported to have been ‘discovered’ during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office, which submitted the names for consideration by the IHO in 2014,” Batongbacal said in his post.
“Two features were also reported ‘discovered; by the same ship during the same survey, but the name proposals were submitted by the China Ocean Minerals R&D Association in 2016,” Batongbacal said.
The features “successfully” named by China were Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; the Haidonquing Seamount located east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province.
Roque said the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has already raised its concern and will consider notifying the IHO about this development.
“They are likewise considering a recommendation to officially notify the chair of the International Hydrographic Organization — Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (IHO-IOC GEBCO) Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN),” Roque said.
The Philippines is not a member of the 12-member state SCUFN.
China’s proposals to rename some undersea features in the Philippine Rise were submitted to SCUFN during its meetings in Brazil on Oct. 12 to 16, 2015 and Sept. 19 to 23, 2017.
Roque has continuously assured that the Philippine government under President Rodrigo R. Duterte is not taking a softer stand on China’s continued militarization in the disputed waters.