NAMRIA Administrator, Usec. Peter N. Tiangco, PhD headed the Philippine delegation during the 36th meeting of the International Hydrographic Office's General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO)-Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) dubbed as SCUFN-36 2023. The meeting was held in the Watersedge Room of Sage Hotel Wollongong, Wollongong City, New South Wales (NSW), Australia on 06-10 November 2023. NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco was accompanied by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Division II-Ocean Governance, Shipping, and Seafaring-Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office (MOAO) Director, Atty. Zoilo A. Velasco and NAMRIA Physical Oceanography Division (POD)-Hydrography Branch (HB) Chief Dennis Arsenio B. Bringas.
The meeting was held primarily to discuss remaining matters from previous meetings; 450 SCUFN-reviewed naming proposals to be considered; liaison with other geographical naming bodies; updates of and on the Undersea Feature Names Project Team and the maintenance of the GEBCO Gazetteer Database of Undersea Feature Names; SCUFN Programme of Work, including updates on GEBCO activities and the Seabed 2030 Project; and election of the SCUFN Chair and Vice-Chair. The dates and venues of the next meetings were also discussed on the last day of the meeting.
During the plenary, the review of 77 Undersea Feature Names (UFN) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) was "frozen" along with other UFN proposals of other coastal states within the South China Sea (SCS). This is due to the manifestation of the Philippines, as supported by Malaysia and Vietnam, that naming of undersea features is an exercise of the sovereign right of the coastal state within its Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf. The SCUFN, henceforth decided that the WPS/SCS can be treated as a "politically sensitive area," and should be subjected to consultation among the involved parties as provided under Section 2.10 of the SCUFN Rules of Procedures. Meanwhile, in the Philippine Rise, the Philippine Delegation managed to have all 22 UFN proposals "ACCEPTED" by the SCUFN with minor revisions.
In addition, the Philippines, specifically NAMRIA, was commended by Mr. Kevin Mackay, SCUFN member representing New Zealand, for sharing its entire bathymetric data, the only country to do so to date, with the GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.
NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco and DFA-MOAO Director Velasco listen intently during the meeting.
NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco and POD-HB Chief Bringas
SCUFN-36 2023 members and observers
In a related event, NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco was the resource speaker during the Briefing on Philippine Maritime Law, and the 2016 Arbitral Award1 held at Bulwagang Rizal, Philippine Consulate General (PCG), Philippine Center, Level 1, 27-33 Wentworth Avenue, Sydney, NSW, Australia on 10 November 2023. The briefing was conducted for the NSW Filipino community.
During the open forum part of the briefing, NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco, not only answered queries on the status of the UFN proposals but also the status of the state of affairs on the implementation of the 2016 Arbitral Award by relevant agencies. The arbitral award ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the Philippines. He assured the Filipino community that the current administration policies in the WPS are being guided by the conditions of the said award. He urged the Filipino community to do its share in educating fellow Filipinos abroad on the merits of the arbitral ruling to rally international acceptance and support. A certificate of appreciation signed by PCG Consul General Charmaine Rowena C. Aviquivil was given to NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco at the end of the briefing.
NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco lectures on Philippine Undersea Feature Names during the briefing for the NSW Filipino community.
(from left to right) POD-HB Chief Bringas, Sydney PCG Consul General Aviquivil, NAMRIA Administrator Tiangco, and DFA-MOAO Director Velasco
1For further information, read: Permanent Court of Arbitration Case Nº 2013-19, In the matter of the South China Sea Arbitration before An Arbitral Tribunal Constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea between the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China.
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