Maritime expert: American name of Benham Rise given when Philippines was still under US

The underwater plateau was first surveyed in 1933 by American geologists, but It was only in 2009 when the Philippines claimed it before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

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Maritime expert: American name of Benham Rise given when Philippines was still under US
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - February 17, 2018 - 10:42am

MANILA, Philippines — A maritime expert on Friday pointed out that Benham Rise got its “American name” when the Philippines was still under the United States, as anger builds up in the Philippines after China moved to name five undersea features in the continental shelf.

In an attempt to allay concerns, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano argued that the Philippines did not file a diplomatic protest against the US when Benham Rise was named after American admiral Andrew Benham, who discovered the continental shelf.

READ: Palace calls for calm: Siopao, mami have Chinese names too

The same argument was previously raised by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who said no country has exclusive power or right to name features.

“Just to get facts straight: Benham Rise was discovered and named in 1933 during the Philippine Commonwealth Period when the Philippines was under US sovereignty,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

“Back then it was still part of the high seas beyond any national jurisdiction,” he added.

The underwater plateau was first surveyed in 1933 by American geologists, but It was only in 2009 when the Philippines claimed it before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

In 2012, the UN commission approved the submission of the Philippines to include Benham Rise as part of its continental shelf. This means that the Philippines has sovereign rights, but not sovereignty over Benham Rise.

Paragraph 1, Article 77 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea states that a state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of "exploring it and exploiting its natural resources."

“China submitted its proposal to name features only in 2014,” Batongbacal stressed.

Malacañang earlier expressed belief there was no bad faith on the part of China when it gave Chinese names to the five features, saying that naming an area is not the same as claiming it.

The Duterte administration has denounced the Chinese action and ordered the Philippine embassy to raise its concerns before Beijing.

READ: Philippines to give Benham Rise undersea features Filipino names

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it, citing the Asian power’s maritime encroachment on the contested South China Sea — control of which is at the heart of a territorial dispute between the two countries.

Duterte earlier signed an Executive Order officially renaming Benham Rise to "Philippine Rise" to assert the country's sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area in 2016.

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