MANILA, Philippines – China has named five undersea features at the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) region, a maritime law expert bared on February 12.
In a Facebook post, Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, revealed that China “successfully” secured naming sea features through the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) last year.
“Three of the features were reported to have been ‘discovered’ during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office, which submitted the names for consideration by the IHO in 2014,” he said.
Two features were also reported ‘discovered’ by the same ship during the same survey, but the name proposals were submitted by the China Ocean Minerals R&D Association in 2016,” he added.
The expert said the features named by China were Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; the Haidonquing Seamount located east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province.
All of these, he said, are within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippine Rise.
‘Traitorous and corrupt’
While Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque objected against China’s moves, Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison criticized President Rodrigo Duterte as “traitorous and corrupt” for “selling out cheap” to China the sovereign rights of the Philippines.
“Duterte is traitorous and corrupt for selling out cheap to China the sovereign rights of the Philippines and the Filipino people over the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise,” Sison said in an earlier statement.
The progressive leader found it ironic that while Duterte “boasts of himself as a strong man,” he remains a “complete coward and puppet vis-a-vis China.”
“Duterte boasts of himself as a strong man, intimidating the Filipino people with brute force and with the most abusive language and is actually establishing a fascist dictatorship through Con-Ass (Constituent assembly) and Cha-Cha (Charter change),” he said.
“But he is a complete coward and puppet vis a vis China by selling out cheap the sovereign rights of the Philippines and the Filipino people over the rich mineral and marine resources of the West Philippine Sea, Panatag Shoal and Benham Rise,” he added.
Aside from naming the undersea features, reports also revealed China’s continuing transformation of seven disputed reefs in the South China Sea into military fortresses.
This is despite an arbitral tribunal based in the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, and nullified China’s claims over the region in July 2016.
In the wake of the report, Duterte had ordered to suspend foreign explorations in the Philippine Rise, which prompted Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate to call on the government to compel foreign researchers to surrender their findings and data to the Philippine government.
“While Pres. Duterte’s order halting all foreign marine studies at Benham Rise is a welcome move, Chinese researchers should be compelled by the Philippine government to turn over their findings to their Filipino counterparts who can use the data for the benefit of our country,” Zarate said in a previous statement.
“The Chinese and Philippine governments should also ensure that the data gathered would not be used by China to annex and militarize the resource-rich area, just like what it did in the West Philippine Sea,” he added. (davaotoday.com)