Philippines objects to China’s naming of undersea features

Above, a Philippine Coast Guard ship sails along Benham Rise, off the east coast of the main island of Luzon. (Department of Agriculture-Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division via AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Philippines objects to China’s naming of undersea features

MANILA: The Philippine government rejects Chinese names given to some undersea features in a vast offshore region where the Philippines has undisputed sovereign rights, the presidential spokesman said Wednesday in a new tiff despite the Asian neighbors’ mended ties.
The Philippines has already raised its concern to China over its naming of the undersea features in Benham Rise and may officially notify the international hydrographic body that lists such records, spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
China proposed the names for the features in 2015 and 2017, he said.
Benham Rise lies on the other side of the Philippine archipelago from the South China Sea, where Manila, Beijing and four other governments have been locked in territorial disputes.
Critics have questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration allowed a group from China to undertake scientific research in the waters given Manila’s long-simmering territorial conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.
China has defied and refuses to comply with an international arbitration ruling that invalidated its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea on historical grounds.
“We object and do not recognize the Chinese names given to some undersea features in the Philippine Rise,” Roque said in a statement, using the name given by the Duterte administration to Benham Rise.
Duterte ordered an end last week to all foreign scientific research missions in Benham Rise after officials said the Philippines’ undisputed sovereign rights in the potentially oil- and gas-endowed body of water off its northeastern coast came under question.
The president followed up with a warning that he will order the navy to fire if other countries extract resources from within his country’s exclusive economic zone, a 200-nautical mile stretch of sea where a coastal state has internationally recognized exclusive rights to exploit resources under a 1982 UN treaty.
Foreign ships can pass but cannot fish or extract oil and gas from the under the seabed.
There were no immediate comments from Chinese Embassy officials.
Chinese and Philippine officials met Tuesday in Manila and discussed proposed joint projects in the South China Sea. They said China and Southeast Asian nations would begin negotiations early next month on a “code of conduct” aimed at reducing the risks of armed confrontations in the contested territories.


Afghanistan’s incumbent president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago
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Afghanistan’s incumbent president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

  • Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014
  • De facto prime minister Abdullah Abdullah is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race
KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday formally registered as a candidate for Afghanistan’s delayed presidential election, setting up a rematch with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in the July ballot.
Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014 that was only resolved in a US-brokered power-sharing deal with Abdullah.
De facto prime minister Abdullah — Ghani’s partner in the fragile unity government — is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race.
The president has replaced his current first vice president, Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, with Amrullah Saleh, an ethnic Tajik and a staunch opponent of the Taliban, for his 2019 ticket.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, needs to expand his support beyond Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and build alliances with other ethnicities.
“A strong government can solve the current crisis. The crisis this country has faced in the past 40 years has been because of lack of a strong government,” Ghani said.
But his presidency has been marred by growing militant violence, record civilian casualties, political infighting, deepening ethnic divisions and fading hopes for peace.
The election slated for July 20 comes after President Donald Trump signaled he would bring home half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he grows impatient over America’s longest-ever war.
Washington is stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban’s participation in the next government, with the US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visiting regional powers this month after meeting Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi.
But many Afghans are worried a US pull-out could destabilize the Kabul government and ultimately spark another bloody civil war.
There are also concerns the presidential election, which will now be held in the middle of the Taliban’s traditional fighting season, could unleash a wave of deadly violence as militants seek to disrupt the vote.