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Permission not needed for China to rename undersea features in PH Rise – DFA exec

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By Xave Gregorio

China does not need to ask for permission from the Philippines to rename undersea features in the Philippine Rise, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assistant secretary said Thursday (March 15).

DFA Assistant Secretary Lourdes Yparraguirre said the rules of the Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) tasked to screen applications for the naming of undersea features are “silent” on whether foreign countries who want to name undersea features in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other countries should seek permission from the country the features are located.

“Under the rules of procedure of SCUFN, UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) has legally no explicit effect on the naming proposals and therefore it could not be used to prevent SCUFN from reviewing considering or denying naming proposals,” Ypaguirre said Thursday during a Senate hearing on the proposed Philippine Rise Development Authority.

Under UNCLOS, foreign countries need to seek permission to conduct maritime research in the territorial waters and the EEZs of other countries. But under SCUFN’s rules, Ypaguirre said, this is not the case.

Last month, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal in a Facebook post revealed that China has renamed five undersea features in Philippine Rise – three of which are within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ.

Ypaguirre, however, said the Philippines has sent to the SCUFN its objection and non-recognition of China’s names last month.

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said last month it will seek to rename the five undersea features discovered by China in 2004.

This is supported by Senate economic affairs committee chair Win Gatchalian who called for the undersea features to be re-christened with Filipino names.

“Immediately palitan natin ‘yung pangalan ng limang underwater features sa mga Filipino names dahil parang lumalabas kasi na parang naunahan tayo na pangalanan ‘yung mga features na ‘yun na nasa loob ng ating EEZ,” Gatchalian said in an interview after the Senate hearing.

But should the Philippines gives its own names for the five Chinese-christened undersea features, this can only be used in the country and would not be recognized internationally.

The SCUFN can “deny proposals if there are similar submissions over one undersea feature,” Ypaguirre said.