Google on Monday updated its Google Maps service to remove the Chinese name for a disputed South China Sea shoal following an outcry by Filipino activists. The shoal, which had been labeled as part of China’s Zhongsha island chain, is now being referred to by its international name -- Scarborough Shoal -- in the maps.
“We’ve updated Google Maps to fix the issue. We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions, which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention,” Google’s office in Manila said, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Manila refers to the region as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal, while Beijing calls it Huangyan Island. Last week’s petition on the Change.org website, which has so far gathered over 2,000 signatures, urged Google to stop giving “credence” to China’s “illegal” territorial claims over the region.
“China’s sweeping claim of [the] South China Sea under their nine-dash line purportedly historical boundary is illegal and is creating tension among nations,” the petition read.
The shoal -- located nearly 136 miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon and over 400 miles from the nearest Chinese landmass -- has been the site of a longstanding territorial dispute between the two nations. Since 2012, following a standoff between the Philippine navy and Chinese shipping vessels, China has been in control of the region.
Earlier this year, Filipino activists accused the Chinese navy of turning water cannons on Philippine fishing boats in the disputed waters.
On Tuesday, after an international tribunal operating under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sought China’s comments over Philippines’ claims, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman reportedly urged the Philippines to “come back to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation.”
China has refused to participate in the functioning of the tribunal, claiming that it does not have jurisdiction.