MALACAÑANG on Wednesday, February 14, lashed out at China for naming five undersea features within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippine 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.
Roque's statement came after a maritime law expert revealed Monday, February 12, that China has successfully named at least five undersea features in the Philippine Rise.
As this developed, the Philippines and China issued a joint statement, affirming their commitment to peacefully resolve the dispute in the South China Sea and avoid acts that would worsen the conflict.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, posted on Facebook China's alleged move to name five seamounts that lie within the Philippine-owned territory.
Batongbacal revealed that the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved in 2017 the names proposed by China.
China named the seamounts Jinghao and Tianbao, located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; Haidonquing, which is found east at 190 nautical miles; and Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province.
"All are within 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, not in the region of the extended continental shelf but well within the 'legal' continental shelf," Batongbacal said.
Batongbacal said three of the features were reportedly discovered during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office. The names were submitted for consideration by IHO in 2014.
The two other seamounts were also found by the same ship during the same survey but the name proposals were submitted by the China OCean Minerals R&D Association in 2016.
Roque said the Duterte administration, through the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, has already raised concern to China over its supposed naming of Philippine Rise's undersea features.
"They (Philippine Embassy in China) are likewise considering a recommendation to officially notify the chair of the International Hydrographic Organization – Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans' Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN)," he said.
"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 Philippines were submitted to SCUFN during its meetings in Brazil on October 12 to 16, 2015, and September 19 to 23, 2017," he added. (SunStar Philippines)