Philippines complains to China about naming of undersea features

Manila (AFP) - The Philippines said Wednesday it has complained about China's move to name undersea features on Manila's continental shelf, an incident which raised fears the Asian giant may be claiming more maritime territory.

Philippines complains to China about naming of undersea features

Philippines complains to China about naming of undersea features

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement that "we object and do not recognise the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise," using the local name for the Benham Rise.

The Philippines enjoys exclusive economic rights on the undersea ridge.

Roque said Manila's embassy in Beijing had "raised our concern" over China's submission of names for five undersea features on the ridge to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).

A Filipino maritime law expert had raised the issue earlier this month.

The 13-million-hectare (32-million-acre) underwater land mass, believed to be rich in maritime resources, is in the Pacific Ocean 250 kilometres (155 miles) off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

In 2012 the United Nations recognised the Philippines' exclusive economic rights to it as part of its continental shelf.

Despite this, Roque said China had submitted the names for five features there to a special IHO naming subcommittee in 2015 and 2017.

The Philippines is not a member of this subcommittee, he added.

China also claims huge areas in the South China Sea, despite competing partial claims from several countries including the Philippines.

The latest controversy highlighted accusations that Duterte is too sympathetic to Beijing.

Since he took office in mid-2016, Duterte has distanced the country from its traditional ally the United States and embraced China, seeking financial and military aid.

A UN-backed tribunal, acting on a case brought by Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino, rejected Beijing's claims to most of the disputed South China Sea in 2016 but Duterte has largely set this decision aside.

Earlier this year Duterte allowed China to conduct a new survey of Benham Rise, spurring criticism that he was allowing them to map out possible routes for submarines.

Duterte this month followed up by banning all foreign scientific exploration at Benham Rise but only after the Chinese had finished their latest survey.

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