WHEN the Philippine Government protested the approval by the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and its partner, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, of the Chinese names proposed for five undersea features of Philippine Rise (Benham Rise). the naming process has been rolling for 14 years.
That’s virtually what the timeline presented by Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, in his Facebook account says. Batongbacal is somewhat an authority on this one being among those involved in having the claim that the previous Benham Rise is part of the Philippine’s continental shelf approved by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS).
Batongbacal noted that the survey by a Chinese team was made in 2004 and the proposal to name the five undersea features presented to SCUFN in 2014. Then consider that the UNCLCS approval of our Benham Rise (Philippine Rise) claim was handed down only in 2012.
What this shows is that, the Philippines is relatively new in this ballgame. Our winning the claim is not the end but rather the beginning not only of efforts to exploit the Philippine Rise resources but also to strengthen the exercise of our “sovereign rights” over the area. Our naming of the area as Philippine Rise is unilateral. Maps still refer to it as Benham Rise. Proposal even seek to rename it not Philippine Rise but Philippine Ridge.
As for the naming of undersea features not only in Philippine Rise and other Philippine territories, a protocol still needs to be laid down. For example in 2012, New Zealand came up with a “Protocol for Undersea Feature Naming in the Area of Interest of the New Zealand Geographic Board Nga Pou Taunaha O Aotearoa.”
As an example, that protocol, as preliminary, has NZGB requesting that other nations consult with it first before naming undersea features within its area of interest and submitting them to SCUFN.