LOOKING before leaping is a good rule not only when one jumps into the sea but also when one joins the fray, or when one discusses a rather complicated issue that could be out of one’s depth. An example is the recent furor over the giving of Chinese names to five undersea features in the Benham Rise.
This development, coming in the wake of other reports about the Chinese building islands and structures in the South China Sea, including the territory we claim as ours and which we call the West Philippine Sea, and about the Philippine Government allowing recently a Chinese research team to study Benham Rise, which we now call Philippine Rise, instantly caused a ruckus in the country.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese name given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. But the statement needs lots of backgrounders for one to understand the impact of the act and whether it affects our right to exploit the area economically.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” admonished William Shakespeare in his play “Romeo and Juliet.”
Anyway, it would indeed sound strange that five undersea features in the Philippine Rise would have names like Jinghao, Tianbao, Haidonquing, Jujiu and Cuiquiao and not Juan, Pepe, Pilar, Dagohoy and Duhaylungsod. Which should lead us to the process of naming undersea features. How is it done? Or what is its requirement? How long is the process?
That should even prod us to revisit the question that we may have neglected to answer for a long while now. Who is “Benham” and why was our continental shelf named after him? Why is the world calling one of the disputed territories in the South China sea “Spratlys” and not “Kalayaan” like what we are insisting (the Chinese want it called ”Nansha”)?
There is a process in naming the world’s undersea features for the purpose of enhancing maps and there is an institution that is taking a lead in it. Why the Chinese were able to name the five undersea features in the Philippine Rise and not Filipinos would be answered if we get acquainted more with the process.
Let us familiarize ourselves with protocol before ranting.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on February 15, 2018.
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