By José Abeto Zaide
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet (II, 1-2)
We seem to have a habit of renaming our streets and may not remember the original name. When I was a toddler, it was Dewey Boulevard;(today, Roxas Boulevard). There was a Sta. Mesa Boulevard; (renamed Magsaysay Boulevard). Gary Lising even remembers a thoroughfare renamed Bwaltamesa Blvd sometime, somewhere. Recently, we renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise in anticipation of our proprietary rights.
But when we weren’t looking, the Chinese, who were on 33-day scientific research in the area, applied and succeeded in naming five underwater features within the Philippine Rise – Jinghao Seamount andTianbao Seamounts, both located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan; Haidonquing Seamount further east at 190 nautical miles; Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount, both form the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province itself. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) approved China’s name proposals despite the fact that the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had granted the Philippines full territorial claim to Philippine Rise in 2012.
NOT ALL IS LOST. Atienza said that Beijing’s ascribing Chinese names to five seamounts in Benham Rise (aka “Philippine Rise”) has “zero impact” on Manila’s sovereign rights over the submerged region. The Chinese tags have not reduced the fact that under international law, Philippine Rise is part of the Philippine continental shelf.
Nevertheless, prudence being the better part of valor, Atienza urged the Philippine government to give Filipino names to every seamount inPhilippine Rise. As of this writing, we do not know if monetary prize will be offered for the most imaginative names.
SUCCESS HAS MANY FATHERS. Atienza claims to have played a part in our claim. He had Benham Rise surveyed as environment and natural resources secretary from 2007 to 2008 to gather the technical data that would later officially define the region as inside the Philippine continental shelf. In 2009, then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo specifically marked Benham as within the limits of the Philippine continental shelf. The demarcation was approved by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf three years later and finally declared part of the Phlippine continental shelf under PDu30’s watch.
Atienza asks Malacañang to certify his House Bill 5360 installing the Benham or Philippine Rise Protection and Development Authority (PRPDA) “to guarantee that all natural resources within the 13 million-hectare undersea region are preserved for the exclusive enjoyment of future generations of Filipinos.” The proposed bill assigns the socioeconomic planning secretary, who is also National Economic and Development Authority chief, to chair the PRPDA’s governing board. The PRPDA’s governing board would include the heads of the departments of environment and natural resources, energy, agriculture, science and technology, finance, tourism, public works and highways, and defense, plus three private sector representatives.
The Acting Chief Justice Justice Antonio Carpio said Filipinos should stop calling its waters the “disputed” West Philippine Sea, as a Hague tribunal “has already ruled with finality” to affirm the Philippines’ rights. The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines, as affirmed by a Hague tribunal ruling in July 2016. The tribunal has junked China’s claim over these Philippine waters.
Carpio said it is no longer a question of ownership but of China’s compliance. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, however, continue to call parts of the West Philippine Sea “disputed.” In pressing the case, the outspoken magistrate does not hesistate being passed up for the third time as Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Just one day after signing a $233 million agreement to sell 16 helicopters to the Philippines, Canada ordered a review of the deal amid concerns the aircraft could be used to fight rebels.
The Bell 412EPI helicopters were due be delivered early next year as the Philippine military prepares to step up operations against Islamist and communist rebels. Philippine Major-General Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans, said the helicopters would be used for the military’s internal security operations and in search-and-rescue and disaster relief operations. A Philippine defence department spokesman added that the air force would use the Bell 412EPI aircraft, worth US$234.8 million, for disaster response and humanitarian missions, but also for “anti-terrorism”. Padilla however explained this did not mean they would be used as “attack helicopters”.
When he read that declaration, Canada’s Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said…”we immediately launched a review with the relevant authorities. And we will obviously review the facts and take the right decision.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked later whether he was concerned the helicopters might be used against Filipino citizens, replied “Absolutely.”
Just recently at last November at the ASEAN Plus meeting in Manila, PDu3-was publicly visceral about PM Trudeau raising questions about his war on drugs.
Rebus sic stantibus, the Phlippine government decided to scratch the order with Canada. . The question now is whether we will get our helicopters from Russia or China.
President Duterte will skip the ASEAN–Australia special summit next week to attend to domestic affairs, including gracing the the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano will represent the President at the regional summit to demonstrate the country’s support for regional efforts to advance security and inclusive development.
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