MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said there should be no cause for alarm over China’s move to name features in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), even as he stressed Manila’s sovereign rights over the resource-rich waters.
Duterte said it was understandable that China named the features it discovered, a process which is recognized internationally.
“Eh alangan nilang gawing German? Ang alam nila Chinese eh. Those are just directions na tapos na sila dyan. Of course, they will do it in Chinese, it’s their dialect,” Duterte said in a speech during the 10th Biennial National Convention and 20th Founding Anniversary Celebration of the Chinese Filipino Business Club, Inc.
Although he defended China’s actions, he stressed that the Philippine Rise belongs to the Philippines.
“The Philippine Rise is ours. Period. The continental shelf below it is Philippine jurisdiction. That is ours,” he said.
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal earlier said China named five features in the Philippine Rise, namely the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts, which are located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province; Haidonquing Seamount, which is found east at 190 nautical miles; and Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount, which form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province.
The Chinese made the proposal to name the features in 2014. The "International Hydrographic Organization - Subcommittee on Undersea Feature Names" approved these names in 2017.
Malacañang had said it cannot attribute bad faith to China’s naming of the features, noting it was purely scientific and not political.
However, it said it will not recognize the names, and that it would come up with its own for “purposes of our domestic affairs.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said last week that the Philippines will not accept the Chinese names of the sea features and will come up with its own.
He added it was not a good time for China to be naming features in the Philippine Rise given Beijing’s ongoing dispute with Manila over the South China Sea.
China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said last week that China continues to respect the Philippines’ sovereign rights over Philippine Rise, but said “we also hope that the relevant parties can view relevant technological work with a professional and responsible attitude.”
“According to the information I have received, the Sub-Committee On Undersea Feature Names is a specialized international organization in charge of establishing standards on naming undersea geographic features,” Geng explained.
“According to the deliberation rules of this organization, the relevant countries and individuals may submit naming proposals on the unnamed undersea features which are twelve nautical miles away from the littoral states. The Chinese side is always engaged in the relevant work in accordance with the international practices and the rules of this organization.”
The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be rich in maritime resources. The United Nations in 2012 recognized the Philippines' exclusive economic rights to it as part of its continental shelf.