Look be­fore join­ing the fray

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION -

Look­ing be­fore leap­ing is a good rule not only when one jumps into the sea but also when one joins the fray, or when one dis­cusses a rather com­pli­cated is­sue that could be out of one’s depth. An ex­am­ple is the re­cent furor over the giv­ing of Chi­nese names to five un­der­sea fea­tures in the Ben­ham Rise.

This de­vel­op­ment, com­ing in the wake of other re­ports about the Chi­nese build­ing is­lands and struc­tures in the South China Sea, in­clud­ing the ter­ri­tory we claim as ours and which we call the West Philip­pine Sea, and about the Philip­pine Govern­ment al­low­ing re­cently a Chi­nese re­search team to study Ben­ham Rise, which we now call Philip­pine Rise, in­stantly caused a ruckus in the coun­try.

“We ob­ject and do not rec­og­nize the Chi­nese name given to some un­der­sea fea­tures in the Philip­pine Rise,” said Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Harry Roque. But the state­ment needs lots of back­grounders for one to un­der­stand the im­pact of the act and whether it af­fects our right to ex­ploit the area eco­nom­i­cally.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” ad­mon­ished Wil­liam Shake­speare in his play “Romeo and Juliet.”

Any­way, it would in­deed sound strange that five un­der­sea fea­tures in the Philip­pine Rise would have names like Jing­hao, Tian­bao, Haidon­quing, Ju­jiu and Cuiquiao and not Juan, Pepe, Pi­lar, Dago­hoy and Duhay­lung­sod. Which should lead us to the process of nam­ing un­der­sea fea­tures. How is it done? Or what is its re­quire­ment? How long is the process?

That should even prod us to re­visit the ques­tion that we may have ne­glected to an­swer for a long while now. Who is “Ben­ham” and why was our con­ti­nen­tal shelf named af­ter him? Why is the world call­ing one of the dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries in the South China sea “Spratlys” and not “Kalayaan” like what we are in­sist­ing (the Chi­nese want it called ”Nan­sha”)?

There is a process in nam­ing the world’s un­der­sea fea­tures for the pur­pose of en­hanc­ing maps and there is an in­sti­tu­tion that is tak­ing a lead in it. Why the Chi­nese were able to name the five un­der­sea fea­tures in the Philip­pine Rise and not Filipinos would be an­swered if we get ac­quainted more with the process.

Let us fa­mil­iar­ize our­selves with pro­to­col be­fore rant­ing.

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