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Walang pake! Pimentel unbothered by China’s naming of features in PH Rise

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While Malacañang said it “objects” and “does not accept” China’s naming of five underwater features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, Senate President Koko Pimentel said he is unbothered by the recent move of Beijing.

Pimentel said there is much ado about nothing, as China merely named the features, three of which are within the 200-nautical mile continental shelf of the Philippines.

“It’s only to name. Pero iba naman ‘yung exercising sovereign rights,” Pimentel said Wednesday (February 14).

Pimentel said the Philippines did not raise any objections when Benham Rise was given its name — even if it “sounded American.”

“Benham Rise, sino nagpangalan niyan? Tayo din ba? Nagalit ba tayo na Amerikano ang sound, Amerikano nag-name niyan? Nagalit ba tayo? Ngayon na Chinese name, allergic tayo?” he said.

Pimentel said he does not see any problem with China naming the features, but if the Philippines would want to challenge it, it must “follow procedures.”

“Basahin ang rules, who can propose names, who can oppose such proposals. If there is such a procedure, let’s avail the procedure,” he said.

Some senators are wary that China’s christening of five features as Jinghao Seamount, Tianbao Seamount, Haindonquing Seamount, Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount could eventually lead to a claim by Beijing over the features, three of which still form part of Philippine territory under existing conventions.

Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, JV Ejercito and Ping Lacson all want the Philippines to lodge a diplomatic protest against China over its naming of the features in the Philippine Rise, which is thought to be rich in oil and minerals.

“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.

The government granted China a permit in January to conduct maritime research on the Philippine Rise, which was followed by the cancellation of all foreign explorations in the area by President Rodrigo Duterte barely two weeks after Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed greenlighting Chinese exploration in the waters.

However, the five undersea features were supposedly “discovered” by China in explorations in 2004 and 2016, according to maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal.

Lacson took a swipe with how lax the Philippine government is with regards to explorations by China in the area, adding that the Philippines should not be “too accommodating” with Beijing.

“Ang apprehension natin is, kung pinangalanan nila ng Chinese name ang mga seamount, hindi farfecthed na balang araw, sabihin nila, kanila na naman ‘yun. Baka mag-construct na naman sila ng mga structures and create artificial islands,” Lacson said.

Despite these concerns, Pimentel said, “I’m not bothered.”

“‘Wag na muna natin problemahin ‘yung hindi pa problema. Kasi if we sue our imagination, lahat talaga posible. So, ‘di tayo matutulog nito,” he said.

Batongbacal, in a Facebook post, said Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts are located just 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan, while Haindonquig Seamount is located further east at 190 nautical miles.

Malacañang said the Philippine embassy in China has communicated its objection to the naming of the features, which were proposed by China to the International Hydrographic Organization – Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names during its meetings in Brazil last October 2015 and September 2017.