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China registers names for 5 undersea features in Benham Rise

China has succeeded in registering official names for the five undersea features in the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise), according to a maritime law expert.

In a Facebook post, Jay Batongbacal said the International Hydrographic Organization has approved last year the names proposed by China for the unerwater features.

In its application to the IHO in 2014, China claimed it "discovered" three of the features during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office.

The two other features, China claimed in a separate application two years later in 2016, were "discovered" by the same ship during the same survey in 2004.

These five features in the Philippine Rise now officially have Chinese names:

  • Jinghao Seamount and
  • Tianbao Seamounts, both located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan;
  • Haidonquing Seamount further east at 190 nautical miles;
  • Cuiqiao Hill and
  • Jujiu Seamount, both  form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province itself.

The IHO approved China's name proposals even if the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had already granted the Philippines full territorial claim to Philippine Rise in 2012.

The IHO is an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization that was established in 1921 to support safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment.

According to the orgnization, one of its objectives is to have "the greatest possible uniformity in nautical charts and documents."

Batongbacal noted that all five undersea features are within 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, not in the region of the extended continental shelf but well within the "legal" continental shelf.

"[The features are] within 200nm, where the coastal State's rights are ipso facto and ab initio and do not need to undergo a claim process; this is unlike the 'extended' continental shelf which must be validated by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf." the law expert said.

Batongbacal warned that "more name proposals are expected."

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a stop to the maritime scientific research by foreigners in the Benham Rise.

Despite this, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr said there is no total ban on foreign scientific research on Benham Rise. — MDM, GMA News