China has moved to name five undersea features within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), a maritime law expert has revealed.
“The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved the names proposed by China last year (2017). Three of the features were reported to have been ‘discovered’ during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office, which submitted the names for consideration by the IHO in 2014,” said Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, in a Facebook post on Monday.
He added that two more features were discovered by the same vessel during the same survey, but the name proposals were submitted by the China Ocean Minerals R&D Association in 2016.
He 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.
Batongbacal emphasized that all these are within the 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, not just in the region of the extended continental shelf. However, it could not be immediately verified if the Chinese surveys conducted in the area at the time were with or without permission from the Philippine government.
“[It is] well within the ‘legal’ continental shelf (i.e., within 200 nautical miles, where the coastal State’s rights are ipso facto and ab initio),” he said.
He warned that more name proposals to cover other features could be expected from China.
The maritime expert explained to the Inquirer that the IHO has its own protocol when accepting and approving names. Batongbacal surmised that the Philippine government did not object at China’s proposal to name the features at that time.
“Alternatively, the ‘discoveries’ are based on hydrographic surveys by [Chinese] Navy. [China] itself prohibits both hydrographic surveys and MSR (marine scientific research) within its EEZ without their consent. So why do they do it to others? It’s a double standard,” he said. /kga