China seeks to name sea features in Philippine Rise


MANILA, Philippines — Why is China interested in conducting research in the Philippine Rise, an area in the Western Pacific where it has no maritime territorial claim?

One possible answer, according to official sources: Beijing is seeking naming rights for seven or eight submarine mountains or seamounts and ridges in Benham or Philippine Rise and the surrounding Philippine Sea.

The official names will be part of the internationally recognized official bathymetric chart of the oceans, which aims to provide an accurate map of the sea floor.

The first edition of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, based on about 20,000 soundings, came out in 1904, but the map is a work in progress. A GEBCO Digital Atlas was published in 1994.

Experts estimate that it will take 200 years to complete mapping of the planet’s entire ocean floor, so research contributions from various countries are accepted by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO.

Those who “discover” ocean features with the required supporting research get to name them.

The Chinese Navy Hydrographic Office submitted to the GEBCO Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names proposed names for undersea features including a seamount that it wants to call Jujiu in Benham Rise and other parts of the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific.

All are in the Philippine Basin and within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as defined under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The IHO-IOC website, in its record of China’s undersea feature name proposals, shows one filed for a ridge in the Philippine Basin that Beijing says a Chinese vessel called Li Siguang Hao “discovered” in September 2004 following a survey from July to September of the same year.

Beijing reportedly converted the naval vessel into a fishery law enforcement ship called Yuzheng 203 sometime in 2012.