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Ping tells DFA chief to settle Benham Rise issue with China: Samahan na rin ng protesta!

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Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano should do something to “settle the issue” with China, regarding China’s renaming of some parts of Benham Rise that are considered part of Philippine territory.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson stressed this even as he said the Philippine government can consider other courses of action, including a diplomatic protest against China.

“First, by way of a diplomatic protest. And second, although di tayo member ng international association kung saan sina-submit ang pagpapangalan sa sea mounts, pero executive action ang kailangan,” he said in an interview with reporters on Wednesday.

When asked if Cayetano should talk about this issue, Lacson said: “He should settle this issue with China.”

On the other hand, he said the Senate can exercise its oversight powers or come up with a resolution on the matter.

Lacson said his apprehension is that if parts of Benham Rise can be given Chinese names, it will not be far-fetched that China could build structures there.

“It (renaming the structures) can create a perception na parang pwede sila mag-lay claim. Remember West Philippine Sea, basta South China Sea, parang kine-claim nila ang mga islands and shoals na naroon. Di far-fetched. Bakit in the first place papangalanan ng Chinese names ang sea mounts and features sa Benham Rise na alam ng lahat declared na talagang Philippine territory?” he said.

On Tuesday night, Lacson wondered if the Philippines is helpless over reports that China managed to name five features of the disputed Benham Rise.

In a tweet, he said China had named five Benham Rise features as Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts, Haidonquing Seamount, Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamounts.

“It’s probably a matter of time before we see Chinese structures on more artificial islands. Damn us! Are we this helpless?” he said (https://twitter.com/iampinglacson/status/963391042929098752).

Earlier reports quoted maritime law “expert” Jay Batongbacal as saying China had successfully named five undersea features within the Philippine Rise.

Batongbacal is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of the Philippines and Director of UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

He said the International Hydrographic Organization approved last year the names proposed by China.

According to Batongbacal, three of the features were reportedly discovered during a 2004 survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office.

China then submitted the names for consideration by the IHO in 2014, he said.

On the other hand, two features were also reported discovered by the same Chinese ship during the same survey, but the name proposals were submitted by China in 2016.

Batongbacal said all these features are well within 200 nautical miles of the east coast of Luzon, within the “legal” continental shelf of the Philippines.