IS CHINA’S naming at least five seamounts in the Philippine Rise that big a deal, and should we be worried? Yes, says a maritime expert at the University of the Philippines (UP). This is because, according to Dr. Jay L. Batongbacal, the director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea at the UP College of Law, China made their naming of features in the South China Sea as the basis of their claim for sovereignty over disputed territories in the vital sea lanes, including those within what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. Addressing the Senate committee on science and technology hearing on Benham Rise Monday, Mr. Batongbacaol noted that China has almost completed developing military bases on three artificial islands it built on three features that roughly encircle the Kalayaan Island Group. —

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