Palace defends Chinese names for seamounts

AFTER lodging an objection to the Chinese names given to five seamounts within Philippine territory, Malacañang on Thursday, February 15, defended China, saying there was no bad faith involved in its act and that bilateral relations remain intact.

At the same time, however, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Manila would assert its sovereign rights over the Philippine Rise by replacing the names provided by China.

"Basically, it's not a political process. It's a scientific process. If I'm not mistaken, the one who discovered it can give names to it," Roque said, referring to the naming of Philippine Rise's seamounts.

Read: China names Philippine Rise seamounts; Philippines objects

"Nevertheless, the President said, 'I don't care whatever it is as long as it is awarded to the Philippines. Whatever China says, the Philippines will also give names to (the underwater features)," he added.

He said the Philippines is seeking membership to the International Hydrographic Organization Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) to be able to give Philippine names to the seamounts. The SCUFN selects the names for undersea features in the world's oceans.

Roque clarified that the ties between the two countries remain intact.

He was confident that China would respect the Philippines' objection since the Philippine Rise belongs to Manila.

"(The relations between the Philippines and China) will not be affected. Since it is evident that Benham Rise is under our sovereign rights,we do not see any basis for China to be alarmed with our position that we will insist on naming rights," Roque said.

"There is really a process that is being followed by the international community. And we're not attributing any bad faith to China. But we're just saying, respect us, too, that we will give Philippine names to them," he added.

In 2017, the IHO reportedly approved Chinese names for the five seamounts in the Philippine Rise. The five features have been named Jinghao, Tianbao, Haidonquing, Cuiqiao Hill, and Juiju.

The seamounts were reportedly discovered by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office.

The Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, is located east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. It is potentially rich in natural gas and other resources like heavy metals.

On April 12, 2012, the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf declared that the Philippine Rise lies within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Malacañang on Wednesday, February 14, raised objection to the successful registration of Chinese names for the five underwater features in the Philippine Rise. (SunStar Philippines)
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