Carpio brought up two years ago China’s naming of features under the United Nations system the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Hydrographic Organization that determine the names of all of the undersea features beyond the territorial sea.
Michael Varcas, file
Carpio: China’s naming of sea features doesn’t mean sovereignty
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — China’s naming of features in the South China Sea, including islands in the Philippine-held Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), does not matter since names of the geologic features do not determine sovereignty, retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio said.

Carpio brought up two years ago China’s naming of features under the United Nations system the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) that determine the names of all of the undersea features beyond the territorial sea. 

“The names of the geologic features do not determine sovereignty or sovereign rights. It does not matter what name China gives it,” Carpio told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News last Wednesday night.

“So within our territorial sea it’s up to us, that’s completely our right (naming sea features) but beyond the 12 nautical miles,” he said. 

In the absence of a national agency that the Philippines will name to be the authority to give approved names for all undersea features, China will file an application with the two UN affiliated bodies for approval of the names.

Carpio pointed to the Philippines’ failure to designate the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) as the body that will approve names for features below the sea.

However, under the rules of the IHO and IOC, the two agencies would no longer entertain applications for names from other countries if the Philippines will name NAMRIA as the body that will approve names for underwater features beyond the country’s territorial sea.

“So it is up to us to designate NAMRIA and to inform IHO and IOC that we have already designated NAMRIA and they will not accept applications anymore,” Carpio added.

The Philippines strongly protested China’s establishment of two new districts in the South China Sea and the illegal designation of Kagitingan Reef within the KIG as administrative center of “Nansha” district.

Kagitingan Reef is within the KIG and is thus an integral part of Philippine territory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines also objects to and does not recognize the Chinese names given to some features in the KIG.

Manila protested the illegal designation of Kagitingan Reef within the KIG as administrative center for the so-called “Nansha district.”

“It’s our failure we have not named NAMRIA. We should name NAMRIA so that within our EEZ  (exclusive economic zone) beyond our territorial sea we will have the right to approve names,” Carpio said.

“That’s the failure that we have not corrected for years now and we should. It’s just a matter of designating NAMRIA and informing the two UN affiliated bodies that we have now a national agency to give names,” he stressed.

On April 22, the Philippines filed two diplomatic protests against China for pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship and declaring Philippine territory as part of Hainan province, violating international law and the country’s sovereignty.

China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on April 18 that the State Council approved the establishment of the Paracel (Xisha) and Spratly (Nansha) districts in the South China Sea under Sansha city.

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario urged the government to protest China’s establishment of two new districts that will govern the Paracel and Spratly as the world grapples with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Despite the current situation the world is confronting and human and economic devastation being wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, del Rosario said China continues to pursue its illegal and expansive claims in the South China Sea to the prejudice of Filipinos, the ASEAN states and the international community as a whole, tightening Beijing’s control over the disputed waters.

On April 23, the United States accused China of taking advantage of the distraction while nations are fighting the COVID-19 with Beijing’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea, its sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier this month and its “research stations” on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef.

Washington asked nations to remember that the long-term threats to security have not disappeared as China is taking advantage of the pandemic and continuing its provocative behavior in the South China Sea.

ANTONIO CARPIO CHINA
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