Senators call for diplomatic protest vs. China over ‘names’ in PH Rise
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — Four senators on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to file a diplomatic protest against China for naming five undersea features at the Philippine Rise (Benham) over apprehensions that China may lay claim over the vast resource-rich Philippine territory.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said a diplomatic protest should be filed because “it is our sworn duty to protect and fight for our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity.”
“What China has been doing is they are already bullying the Philippine government. Of course, admittedly they are a superpower… we cannot match them in terms of military might,” he said during a press briefing.
“But we have to exhaust all possible legal and diplomatic means to fight for our territories and fight for our sovereignty,” Ejercito said.
He added that giving Chinese names to undersea features in the Philippine Rise is already a sign that China wanted to infringe on our territory.
“May balak talaga silang kunin din sa atin ito so bakit nila papangalanan ng Chinese names yun? (They really intend to grab it from us. In the first place, why will they give Chinese names to these features?)” Ejercito said.
Meanwhile, Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV stressed that Benham Rise is clearly Philippine territory and its features are not for China to name.
“It is only right that the government counter any further moves to name features of our territory and propose remedies for the two formally named by China through the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO),” he said in a statement sent to media.
“It is imperative that we protect our territory from any foreign interest. Dapat nang magkaroon ng matibay at malinaw na plano ang pamahalaan sa Philippine Rise, lalo ngayong unti-unti nang kumikilos ang China para ito’y angkinin (The government must have a concrete and clear plan on what to do with the Philippine Rise especially now that China is slowly moving to claim it.) ,” Aquino said.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also urged the Philippine government on Wednesday to file a diplomatic protest against China for naming five undersea features at the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise).
In an interview, the opposition lawmaker said that giving Chinese names to Benham Rise features warrants a diplomatic protest at the very least.
“So palagay ko (I think) this time, it warrants at the very least, a diplomatic protest dahil hndi pwedeng hahayaan na lang yan (because we should not let that happen). At least ngayon maliwanag na (At least it is clear now), dapat off limits na sa kanila itong Benham Rise (Benham Rise should be off limits to them),” he said.
“Yung (The) diplomatic protest is largely symbolic na (that) we are not agreeing sa ginagawa na yan (with what they do)…. A diplomatic protest is a good first step in the right direction,” Trillanes said.
In a separate interview, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Chinese action is a solid basis for filing a diplomatic protest as the features named by China were clearly within Philippine territory.
Lacson said the Philippine government should immediately work to address the issue, warning that giving Chinese names to features in the Philippine Rise can create an impression that China could lay claim to the area.
“Ang apprehension natin is, kung pinangalanan ng Chinese names ang sea mounts, di far-fetched na balang araw sabihin nila kanila na naman yan. At baka mag-establish sila ng mga structures and create artificial islands just like what happened sa West Philippine Sea (Our apprehension is if they gave Chinese names to these sea mounts, it’s not far-fetched that someday, they will claim it as theirs. They may even establish structure and create artificial islands just like what happened at the West Philippine Sea),” Lacson said.
The senators reactions were issued after a maritime law expert bared on Monday that the IHO approved last year the names proposed by China for the features their researchers discovered in Benham in 2004.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the features “successfully” named by China were Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; the Haidonquing Seamount located east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province.
He said that all these are within the 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, “well within the legal continental shelf.”
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered an end to all foreign scientific research missions in the Philippine Rise after officials said the Philippines’ undisputed sovereign rights in the potentially resource-rich body of water off its northeastern coast came under question.
The President followed it up with a warning that he will order the navy to fire if other countries extract resources from within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that covers the Rise.
The Philippines claimed Benham Rise as part of its continental shelf in a claim filed with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on April 8, 2009.
The claim was approved under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012. (PNA)