Google removes Chinese name for disputed shoal

The Philippine navy has been quietly reinforcing the hull of a marooned transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which it ran aground in 1999 to enforce its claim over Second Thomas shoal in the South China Sea.
The Philippine navy has been quietly reinforcing the hull of a marooned transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which it ran aground in 1999 to enforce its claim over Second Thomas shoal in the South China Sea.PHOTO: REUTERS

Google has quietly removed the Chinese name for a shoal in the South China Sea being bitterly disputed by the Philippines and China, following an online petition.

The search giant's Maps app shows the shoal is no longer labelled as part of China's Zhongsha island chain, but is referred to by its international name: Scarborough shoal, said Agence France-Presse.

"We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions, which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention," said Google's office in Manila.

Last week, campaigns website Change.org began a petition to get Google to drop the Chinese name.

Scarborough shoal lies about 220km west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and was seized by China in 2012.

The development came as the Philippines wrapped up pleadings before a United Nations court to push its case against China's claims over the disputed South China Sea.

Manila is confident the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague will assume jurisdiction and allow the Philippines to argue the merits of its case against China.

In Beijing, however, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated that China "will never accept any imposed plan, nor any solution arrived at by unilaterally resorting to a third party for resolving disputes".

China is not taking part in the case, but said in a position paper that the "essence" of the Philippines' case is sovereignty, which is beyond the PCA's scope.

"If jurisdiction is cleared, then China is vulnerable to similar suits from, say, Vietnam… Vietnam could start credibly threatening China with a similar suit," said Assistant Professor Richard Jeydarian, an international affairs expert at the De La Salle University.

The Philippine navy, meanwhile, has been quietly reinforcing the hull of a derelict ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, it ran aground in 1999 to enforce its claim over Second Thomas shoal in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2015, with the headline 'Google removes Chinese name for disputed shoal'. Print Edition | Subscribe