Philippines follows China, moves to name Benham Rise features

Camille Diola, Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Philippines follows China, moves to name Benham Rise features
In October 2018, the Philippines submitted its own proposals to name undersea features in the Philippine or Benham Rise, an underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora.

MANILA, Philippines — Following China's footsteps, the Philippines recently submitted name proposals for undersea features on Benham—also called the Philippine Rise—off the coast of Aurora, that Beijing had earlier named.

Early last year, the International Hydrographic Organization rejected the Philippines' bid to reverse the aproval of China's proposals to name undersea features Haidongqing Seamount, Jinghao Seamount, Tianbao Seamount, Jujiu Seamounts and Cuiqiao Hill in Benham Rise.

According to documents seen by Philstar.com, the Philippines' National Mapping and Resources Information Authority (NAMRIA) submitted names for 16 undersea features during the IHO's Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) meeting on Oct. 25, 2018 in New Zealand.

NAMRIA geophysicist Dennis Arsenio Bringas represented the Philippines in the meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, according to the SCUFN.

Eleven of these undersea feature name proposals are associated with Benham Rise — Katmon Hill, Yakal Seamount, Mayapos Seamount, Kalantas Seamount, Mahogany Seamount, East Luzon Trough, Molave Saddle, Molave Spur, Narra Saddle, Narra Spur and Palanan Saddle.

Other name proposals from the Philippines were Isabela Seamount (Isabela Ridge), Banaba Seamount (Palawan Trough), Bicol Saddle (Bicol Shelf), Bicol Shelf ( Bicol Saddle) and Isabela Ridge (Isabela Seamount).

Protest came too late

In February 2018, the Philippine government protested China's moves to name five undersea features in Benham Rise. Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago "Chito" Sta. Romana brought this up with his counterpart in Beijing.

Manila's protest, however, came a few years too late as Beijing's proposals to rename undersea features in the area were submitted to the SCUFN as early as 2015.

Following the Philippines' protest, China insisted that it followed the rules of the SCUFN in naming five features in Benham Rise, which is part of the Philippines' extended continental shelf.

"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," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang earlier said.

Under the guidelines of the IHO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO), undersea features name proposals can be submitted to the SCUFN for consideration for inclusion in a digital gazetteer.

Application forms for name proposals are available on the official website of the GEBCO. The forms note that they would only be forwarded to the IHO-ICO if "the undersea feature is located inside the external limit of the territorial sea" and "if at least 50 percent of the undersea feature is located outside the external limits of the territorial sea."

Lawyer Harry Roque, presidential spokesperson at the time, played down China's naming of the features, arguing that "China has given names to many things."

"Siopao, mami, all these were named by the Chinese. Hototay soup, but this did not mean that they owned these," he said.

In April 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines' submission to include Benham Rise as part of its extended continental shelf. This enabled the country to explore and develop natural resources in the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte would only issue an executive order officially changing the name of Benham Rise to Philippine Rise on May 2017 following reports that Chinese survey ships have conducted oceanographic research in the region.

The president would also later on order the halt of all marine explorations and studies by foreign scientists in underwater plateau to give Filipino scientists a chance to explore the area. This order, however, came after Beijing completed its research in the region.

In May 2018, the president attended the ceremonial sendoff for a contingent of Filipino scientists headed to the Philippine rise for marine surveys and studies.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 15, 2018 - 2:54pm

Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa), vice chairperson of the House defense panel, tweets a retort after Senate President Koko Pimentel downplayed the move of China to rename some parts of Benham Rise, an underwater plateau administered by the Philippines.

Biazon's remark is a reaction to Pimentel's comment: "When Benham Rise was named 'Benham,' were we afraid? That's an American name, (could it be an) American claim? None, so what's the point?" — Photo from Rep. Biazon's office

May 15, 2018 - 2:54pm

President Rodrigo Duterte won't be riding a jetski in the Philippine or Benham Rise after reports that he may do so when the watercraft was seen aboard the Philippine Navy's BRP Davao del Sur.

READ: Duterte may ride jet ski to uncontested Benham Rise

Instead of him, presidential son Sebastian Duterte and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, who has been visible in media events lately and is projected to run in next year's senatorial polls, will be riding the jetskis.

FROM INTERAKSYON: State media outfits are following Bong Go as he tours around

March 1, 2018 - 7:57pm

Spokesperson Harry Roque explains President Rodrigo Duterte's "firm stance that any country that wishes to conduct research or any other study" in Benham Rise, an undersea territory he recently named "Philippine Rise," should secure a permit from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

Duterte, however, last month imposed a ban on all foreign-led researches in Benham.

February 28, 2018 - 10:49am

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella says the Philippine government plans to contest the China-named features in Benham or Philippine Rise.

"Actually, we have raised the issue of unauthorized researches conducted by the... Chinese Academy of Sciences during our bilateral consultation mechanism in Manila which was held last February 13. Both sides agreed that all marine science research henceforth must have the consent of the Philippines."

February 19, 2018 - 7:56pm

President Duterte defends China's move to rename some undersea features in Benham Rise despite a supposed diplomatic protest by the Philippines.

"The Chinese just know Chinese (languages)," Duterte says in a speech. He says the Chinese names for the features only serve as directions.

The president also goes soft on the ban on foreign research undertakings in Benham Rise, saying the directive is only "for the meantime."

February 15, 2018 - 10:53am

Antonio Carpio, senior associate justice of the Supreme Court, says the Philippines has the rights to name undersea features within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Still, the Philippines should also task a government agency to approve names of such features, reports CNN Philippines.

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