Philippines opposes China naming undersea features


When asked about Lorenzana's statement, Roque said assigning a Philippine name is a "sure" next step as the government objects to China's naming of four seamounts and a hill in Benham Rise, an undersea plateau 135 miles off the coast of Aurora province which is part of the country's extended continental shelf - giving it sovereign rights over the area.

Panfilo Lacson also opposed what China allegedly did and said that there could be perceptions that the Asian giant could already lay claim to the territory, just like what it did in the West Philippine Sea, just because the country named some undersea features in Benham Rise. "Whatever China says, the Philippines will also give names to (the underwater features)", he added.

China's foray into the Philippine Rise has caused concerns among nationalists in the Philippines, mistrustful of Chinese intentions after decades of disputes and perceived encroachments by Beijing in the South China Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month banned all foreign scientific research at Benham Rise and told the navy to chase away unauthorized vessels, including Chinese oceanographers, whose research trip he had personally approved only a few weeks earlier.

"We are not attributing any bad faith to China", he said.

The diplomat was not identified, but a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said a year ago that Manila could not claim the Philippine Rise as part of its territory.

China's move was meant to normalize its "aggressive and all too often unlawful maritime behavior", he said, adding, "The adverse implications of which are the erosion and ultimately, the concession of the Philippines' sovereign rights over the region".

He told CNN Philippines this is part of what the government plans to raise with the global organization that approved the Chinese names - the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) of the worldwide Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO - of which the Philippines is not a member.

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"Pag-uusapan pa namin ni NSA at ibang (I will discuss this with NSA and) cabinet members".

"Bahala kayo kung ano binigay niyo diyan basta kami magtatalaga kami ng Pilipinong pangalan (You can name it whatever you want, we will assign a Philippine name)", Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a media briefing on Thursday.

"If I'm not mistaken, the one who discovered it can give names to it", Roque said, referring to the naming of Philippine Rise's seamounts.

Sen. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito also saw the need for the Philippines to file a protest.

"It is our sworn duty to fight and protect for our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity".

The Philippines has insisted that foreign ships were allowed into the area, and that there had been as many as 30 foreign licenses granted to survey the area, including from the United States and China.

"They (China) should not abuse it to the point that they are raping our country", he said.

"China fully respects the Philippines' continental shelf rights over Benham Rise", said Geng Shuang, the Chinese spokesman.