By Tarra Quismundo
PHILIPPINES - Following President Aquino's lead, the weather bureau has adopted the name "West Philippine Sea" to refer to waters known as the South China Sea in its official advisories, amid renewed tensions between the Philippines and China over the disputed Spratly Islands.
Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) made this "right move" to avoid confusion among the public.
"Please be informed that from now on, we will use West Philippine Sea to refer to what we used to call South China Sea. The body of water east of the Philippines (Pacific Ocean side) will still be called the Philippine Sea as per published in scientific documents," Yumul said on Sunday.
The use of local names for international bodies of water has long been a practice among countries, he said.
For example, the waters between Japan and Korea are known as the East Sea to Koreans and the Japan Sea to the Japanese, he said.
"Recently, the government has been using the name (West Philippine Sea), especially with the Spratlys issue. So that people won't be confused, we will also be using that name," Yumul told the Inquirer.
"To call it the West Philippine Sea and not South China Sea is the right move," he said.
Malacañang recently dropped the name South China Sea in its public statements and started using the West Philippine Sea to refer to waters off Palawan.
The move was made after Manila protested what it deemed to be a series of Chinese incursions into the Kalayaan Island, a part of the Spratlys claimed by the Philippines.
Asked if Pagasa has officially informed its international counterparts, Yumul said: "Ultimately, when we give advisories, the international community will see the name change. In other countries, this has been done."