By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Roy C. Mabasa
A week after President Duterte ordered foreign research teams to leave the Philippine Rise, Malacañang has strongly objected China’s naming of five underwater features in the said area.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after it was reported thatChina successfully named five undersea features within the region
The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved this week the names proposed by China for the five features in the Philippine Rise region.
The said features reportedly named by China are the Jinghao, Tianbao, Haidonquing, and Jujiu Seamounts and the Cuiqiao Hill.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Roque said.
According to Roque, the Philippine Embassy in Beijing has already raised the government’s concern to China.
The embassy is likewise considering a recommendation to officially notify the Chairperson of the International Hydrographic Organization – Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (IHO-IOC GEBCO) Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN).
The IHO enjoys observer status at the United Nations where it is the recognized competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting.
When referring to hydrography and nautical charting in Conventions and similar Instruments, it is the IHO standards and specifications that are normally used.
“The Philippines, as many of you know, is not a member of the SCUFN, which is composed of 12 members. China’s proposals to rename some undersea features in the Philippine Rise were submitted to SCUFN during its meetings in Brazil on Oct 12-16, 2015 & Sept 19-23, 2017,” Roque said.
In an online report quoting maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, the IHO approved the names proposed by China, saying the three 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.
The two other features were also reportedly “discovered” by the same ship during the same survey.
Part of the PH shelf
The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Contintental Shelf (UNCLCS) confirmed in 2012 that Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf which comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas 200 nautical miles from a state’s baselines.