While the Philippine government objected the Chinese government’s move of naming five undersea features in Philippine Rise or formerly known as Benham Rise, a maritime law expert said that this may be too late.
“Hindi ko alam kung mag-wo-work iyan[g protest] dahil tapos na ang proseso. Open ang process. It was transparent. So parang medyo nakakahiya rin naman sa atin na too late the hero naman tayo na biglang mag-o-object (I do not know if that protest will work because the process is done. The process was open. It was transparent. So it is a bit embarrassing for us as too late the hero to suddenly object),” Dr. Jay Batongbacal said in an interview with DZMM.
Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea then added, “Technically, alam nating nangyari iyon tapos hindi tayo umaalma (we know what is happening yet we are not protesting). It’s going to be awkward and in a way, [and] out of order na.”
According to his Facebook post, the International Hydrographic Organization-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (IHO-IOC GEBCO) approved the said names.
He said that three of the undersea features were reportedly discovered during a survey by the China Navy Hydrographic Office’s Li Siguang Hao in 2004, while the names were submitted in 2014.
The other two were also reported to be discovered by the same vessel during the same survey. However, the proposed names were submitted in 2016, by the China Ocean Minerals R & D Association.
Batongbacal said that the government should have protested as early as 2004 or between 2014 and 2017.
He also argued that these developments in the Philippine Rise should be known by the Philippines as China’s name proposals to IHO are accessible online.
On February 14, Malacañang through spokesman Harry Roque, Jr. said, “We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise.”
Roque added that the government has already contacted China on the matter.