The Philippine government maintains its trust in China even after protesting its move to name undersea features in the Philippine Rise formerly known as Benham Rise.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. in a press briefing on Thursday said that just because the Chinese government named these undersea features, it does not mean that they are claiming it.
“We are not attributing any bad faith to China,” he said. He then added, “Naming doesn’t mean they are claiming.”
Roque just said that the government hopes that China will ‘understand’ the protest to the naming, since the Philippines has the sovereign rights over the Philippine Rise.
“We are just saying, respect us too, that we will give Philippine names to them,” the spokesman said.
On February 14, the Philippines rejected the Chinese names approved by the International Hydrographic Organization-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Roque said in a statement.
He also cited that the Philippines also rejected the name given by the Americans, since Benham Rise was named after American Admiral Andrew Benham.
“Ang stand natin, bahala kayo ano ang ibigay niyo d’yan, basta kami magtatalaga kami ng Pilipinong pangalan gaya ng ginawa na naming sa pagbalewala sa dun sa pangalang binigay ng mga Amerikano sa lugar na ‘yan, ngayong Philippine Rise na (Our stand is that it is up to you what name to give, but for us we will give it Philippine names which we already did when we ignored the American name given to it, now that we call it as Philippine Rise),” Roque stated.
He then added that in a meeting in Malacañang earlier, some name suggestions were already brought up.
The Duterte administration has been consistent in maintaining its ties with China, saying in previous statements that it relies on good faith when it came to the developments in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
Roque was asked if the recent protest will have ill effects with the relationship of the countries, to which he said that it will not as “there is no controversy in the Philippine Rise.”
However, the Chinese government submitted the names Jinghao Seamount (found at about 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province), Tianbao Seamount (found at about 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province), Haidonquing Seamount (found at about 190 nautical miles east of Cagayan province), Cuiqiao Hill, and Jujiu Seamount.
“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,” Jay Batongbacal, a maritime law expert said.