MALACAÑANG on Thursday said it was not attributing bad faith on the part of China in the controversy over the latter’s naming undersea features in Benham Rise, officially named in the Philippines as Philippine Rise.

For its part, Beijing cited an international body as basis for “naming proposals on the unnamed undersea features,” as it maintained respect for “the relevant rights enjoyed by the Philippines concerning the Benham Rise.”

“According to the information I have received, the Sub-Committee On Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) is a specialized international organization in charge of establishing standards on naming undersea geographic features. According to the deliberation rules of this organization, the relevant countries and individuals may submit naming proposals on the unnamed undersea features which are twelve nautical miles away from the littoral states,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in his press briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

“The Chinese side is always engaged in the relevant work in accordance with the international practices and the rules of this organization,” he added.

Mr. Geng also said, “Meanwhile, we also hope that the relevant parties can view relevant technological work with a professional and responsible attitude.”

On Wednesday, Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. said, “We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise.”

He added that this matter would be raised with the International Hydrographic Organization that is responsible for assigning names to underwater features.

But on Thursday, Mr. Roque said the Philippines is “not attributing bad faith” to China’s naming of the said underwater features.

“Basically, it is not a political process. It is a scientific process. If I am not mistaken, a country which discovered these [features] would be the one to give names,” Mr. Roque said in his press briefing on Thursday.

He added, “Giving names does not mean they are claiming it. China recognizes that they have no rights over the Philippine Rise, and they recognize our sovereign rights.

“It is clear that Philippine Rise is under our sovereign rights. We don’t see basis for China to be alarmed with our position that we will insist on our naming rights.”

“Our stand, it’s up to them. But on our part, we will give Filipino names [to these features] just like what we did in ignoring the name that the Americans used. It is now a Philippine Rise.”

Director Jay L. Batongbacal of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the University of the Philippines, had earlier disclosed on social media the five features named by China as “the Jinghao and the Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; the Haidonquing Seamount further east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province itself.”

For his part, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. said in a statement: “While the approval by the SCUFN does not confer to the applicant country sovereignty and jurisdiction over the seamounts, the Philippine Government had nonetheless raised its objection to China’s recent initiatives, during the meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultative Mechanism held on 13 February 2018.”

Mr. Esperon was referring to Tuesday’s meeting among representatives of the two countries regarding the also disputed South China Sea.

He added that “(t)he decision of the SCUFN was made without due consultation with the Philippine Government.” — Arjay L. Balinbin