By Hannah Torregoza
Detained Senator Leila de Lima today “lectured” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque after the latter merely shrugged off China’s renaming of Benham Rise features and comparing it to the names of popular Chinese food.
“The Malacañang spokesperson might have just been hungry after missing lunch when he made his hototay statement,” de Lima said in a statement.
“…His flippant remark on a matter of grave public interest and national security reveals this government’s complete cluelessness in handling threats and securing our interests in our maritime domains,” she said.
Roque earlier assured that China has no plans to invade Benham Rise saying its move to give five undersea features in the resource-rich underwater plateau is comparable to the Chinese naming of food such as “siopao, siomai, ampao, pechay, hototay.”
But de Lima said the problem with Roque’s statement is that unlike his favorite Chinese food, the Philippine continental shelf on its eastern seaboard are not Chinese delicacies.
“Roque forgets his history, or is simply being intentionally absurd as a result of the government incompetence for which he has no ready answer,” she said.
“Countries and nations do not discover, occupy, or claim sovereignty over gastronomic delights. Germany did not invade France to claim sovereignty over French cheese. Spain did not sail three oceans and occupy the Philippines only to give sinigang a new name,” the senator added.
“When it comes to territory, whether terrestrial or maritime, names are given historically for the purpose of laying claim. When it comes to land and sea, naming is invariably an act of ownership, domination, control, or sovereignty,” the lawmaker stressed.
She said it is evident China is only interested in owning Benham Rise, as it attempted to own and aggressively claims ownership over the Spratlys, “emboldened by the default of our current crop of leaders in asserting PH’s judicially affirmed sovereign rights.”
“If Palace spokesperson Harry Roque is to be believed, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In the case of the Chinese naming of submarine features in the Benham/Philippine Rise, a seamount would still be a seamount according to Roque, regardless of who names it or what name it is given,” she pointed out.
“Like Chinese seafood, China can go on naming seamounts found within our country’s continental shelf, but it does not mean this would undermine Philippine maritime rights over Benham Rise. This is what Roque is saying,” she lamented.