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Kumilos naman kayo! Senators want PH to file diplomatic protest vs China

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By: Xave Gregorio

Senators are calling on the Philippine government to lodge a diplomatic protest against China over their naming of five underwater features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise.

Senator Antonio Trillanes said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano should file a diplomatic protest against China, who has christened five undersea features within 200 nautical miles from Luzon’s seaboard as Jinghao Seamount, Tianbao Seamount, Haindonquing Seamount, Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount.

“Palagay ko, at this time it warrants at the very least, a diplomatic protest dahil hindi pwedeng hahayaan na lang ‘yan. At least ngayon, maliwanag na off limits ‘yun sa kanila, itong Benham Rise,” Trillanes said Wednesday (February 14).

Trillanes said it is clear that China has “deceived” the Philippines after moving to name some features in the waters off the northern seaboard of Luzon following its exploration in the area which was greenlighted by the foreign affairs department.

However, Malacañang said China has submitted their proposed names last October 2015 and September 2017 during the meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization – Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names.

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal, in a Facebook post, said China supposedly “discovered” the features in explorations in 2004 and 2016.

“May sinasabi ‘yung dalubhasa na claim by claim by discovery. So, kung sabihin nila na sila ‘yung nag-research nito nung ilalim nito, alam niyo, hahanapan nila ng butas eh. ‘Yun lang walang butas, ginagawan nila ng butas. So, kailangan on guard tayo dito,” Trillanes said.

Senator JV Ejercito also said the Philippines, through the DFA, should file a diplomatic protest against China for naming the features in the Philippine Rise.

“What China has been doing is they are already bullying the Philippine government,” Ejercito said.

“We have to exhaust all diplomatic means, possible legal and diplomatic means to fight for our territories, to fight for our sovereignty,” he said.

Ejercito said China’s giving of Chinese names to underwater features in the Philippine Rise indicates that they intend to “infringe on our territory.”

But Senator Win Gatchalian took China’s christening of features lightly, saying Beijing only named features, and not claimed them as theirs.

“We have sovereign rights in that area. I’m not very sure if it includes the name, kasi wala namang kinuhang lugar in that area,” Gatchalian said.

He added there is a need for the Philippines to consult the United Nations on the legality of China’s naming of the features.

Gatchalian, however, asserted that China “cannot claim” any part of the Philippine Rise.

The Duterte administration has not yet filed any diplomatic protest against China on the Philippine Rise, but asserted that it has been protesting Beijing’s militarization in the West Philippine Sea.

Opposition senator Trillanes hit the silence of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte on the actions taken by China in the Philippine Rise.

“Itong administrasyon na ito, ni diplomatic protest, ni salita man lang. A statement condemning or protesting itong nangyayari na ‘yan, wala kang naririnig eh,” Trillanes said.

Malacañang, however, said in a statement that it “objects” and “does not accept” the Chinese names given to some underwater features in the Philippine Rise.