Dispatch from Crame No. 245: Statement on Roque’s dismissal of Chinese naming of Benham Rise features


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What’s in a name?

If Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque is to be believed, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In the case of the Chinese naming of submarine features in the Benham/Philippine Rise, a seamount would still be a seamount according to Roque, regardless of who names it or what name it is given.

Like Chinese seafood, China can go on naming seamounts found within our country’s continental shelf, but it does not mean this would undermine Philippine maritime rights over Benham Rise. This is what Roque is saying.

The problem with Roque’s statement is that unlike his favorite Chinese food, the Philippine continental shelf on its eastern seaboard is not hototay, siopao or siomai. Roque forgets his history, or is simply being intentionally absurd as a result of the government incompetence for which he has no ready answer.

Countries and nations do not discover, occupy, or claim sovereignty over gastronomic delights. Germany did not invade France to claim sovereignty over French cheese. Spain did not sail three oceans and occupy the Philippines only to give sinigang a new name. When it comes to territory, whether terrestrial or maritime, names are given historically for the purpose of laying claim. When it comes to land and sea, naming is invariably an act of ownership, domination, control, or sovereignty.

This is what China wishes to achieve in giving names to five features found in the Benham Rise. China is not interested in siopao or siomai. It is only interested in owning Benham Rise, as it attempted to own and aggressively claims ownership over the Spratlys, emboldened by the default of our current crop of leaders in asserting PH’s judicially affirmed sovereign rights.

The Malacañang spokesperson might have just been hungry after missing lunch when he made his hototay statement. Nevertheless, his flippant remark on a matter of grave public interest and national security reveals this government’s complete cluelessness in handling threats and securing our interests in our maritime domains. ###

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