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.


Sabika Shaikh’s family waiting to see her one last time

The coffin of Sabika Shaikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, on May, 20, 2018. Sabika was an exchange student from Pakistan. (AFP)
Updated 39 min 59 sec ago
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Sabika Shaikh’s family waiting to see her one last time

  • The Punjab administration has announced a scholarship in the name of the Texas school shooting victim.
  • Sabika’s body will arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday morning. Her father says he was greatly moved to see how many people attended her funeral in Houston.

KARACHI: Abdul Aziz Shaikh, father of the Pakistani victim of the Texas school shooting, told Arab News on Monday that he would have to wait to see his daughter for the last time due to a delay in flights from the US.

“Sabika’s body was due to arrive in Karachi on Tuesday morning; however, due to a change in flight schedules, we will receive her at 4 a.m. on Wednesday,” he said.

“It’s really difficult but we have no option but to wait,” he continued, adding that officials at the Pakistan Consulate in Houston were striving to make the best possible arrangements for sending her body back to her home.

The 17-year-old Pakistani foreign exchange student, participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program in the US, was killed, along with nine others, when a teenage classmate opened fire on fellow students in the Santa Fe High School in Texas on Friday.

Sabika’s funeral prayers were offered at a local mosque in Houston after the noon prayer on Sunday.

“We thought she was only loved by her family. But the way people showed up at her funeral in Houston — and the way everyone condoled with us in Karachi — shows that she was loved by everyone," her father said.

Shaikh said he saw the video of the Houston funeral, pointing out that it was not only attended by Pakistani-Americans but people from all Muslim countries. Many of those who attended the ceremony, he added, belonged to other faiths. They were all mourning her untimely death, he said.

“All this shows people’s exemplary attachment to her. It makes us very proud.”

Rana Mashhood Khan, a minister in the Punjab administration who visited the bereaved family on Sunday evening, told Arab News that the provincial government was going to introduce a “Sabika Scholarship” that would be awarded to brilliant students from Punjab. This, he added, would help them study abroad in some of the best educational institutions around the world.

“I met the family and conveyed a special message from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. We wanted them to know that we will institute a scholarship in the name of their talented daughter for young and bright students in our province,” Khan said.

Shaikh seemed happy to hear the announcement. “I’m glad that the name of my daughter will be associated with a scholarship that will benefit our students.”

He also said that a Karachi-based industrialist, Ishtiaq Baig, had also promised to introduce a scholarship in Sabika’s name. “She is making us all very proud. I wish I could see her alive with so many accomplishments.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Shaikh’s residence to condole with the family.

Expressing deep grief and sorrow, the prime minister described Sabika as a talented Pakistani student, adding that the whole nation was mourning her death. The Pakistani premier also pointed out that extremist tendencies were not just a problem in one country or region, but that they were an international one.

Earlier, in an interview with Arab News, Shaikh had revealed that his daughter wanted to be a diplomat and improve the image of her country.

“Sabika wanted to sit the Central Superior Services (CSS) exams and join the Foreign Service of Pakistan. She thought that Pakistan was a great country, but that it had an image problem.”

“At one point, she told me that she wanted to be like Maleeha Lodhi and Tasneem Aslam,” Shaikh had said. “Her desire was to improve the image of Pakistan abroad.”