WATCH: Coral reefs damaged by Chinese fishermen at Panatag Shoal
Chinese fishermen have destroyed the coral reefs and have harvested giant clams from the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Video and photos obtained by Inquirer.net from a fisherman showed the damaged corals inside the lagoon of the resource-rich fishing ground.
“Hinukay nila [Chinese fishermen] ang bahura, isang dipa ang lalim dun lalabas ang bahay ng mga taklobo (They dug it up, about one metter deep. It’s where the clams live),” fisherman Joseph Jeruela said in an interview.
At a consultative dialogue initiated by the military in Zambales on Thursday, fishermen lamented the practice of cyanide and dynamite fishing by foreigners in the fishing ground.
“Meron din po kaming mga nakikitang Chinese na kumukuha ng corals na nilalagay sa kanilang sasakyang pandagat (We have also seen Chinese nationals taking corals and placing them on their marine vessels),” said one fisherman.
The military urged the fishermen to report any suspicious activities they witness at sea.
“Siguro ito ay ating moral obligation na iparating ito na nasa area. Kumbaga kayo ang ground commanders kayo ang may actual picture na nagaganap. Kung may kahina-hinalang hindi ayon sa fishery law, pwede niyong ibahagi sa aming law enforcers. (Maybe it’s our moral obligation to relay this information. You’re like the ground commanders. You know what is happening. If there are suspicious activities that may violate our fishery law, you can share the information with our law enforcers),” Commodore Nichols Driz, commander of Naval Forces Northern Luzon Command, said.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has urged the Philippine government to file a new case against China for destroying coral reefs at Panatag Shoal. He also cited China’s failure to comply with its obligation “to protect and preserve the marine environment” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines had won a case against China in July 2016, which invalidated China’s massive claims in almost the entirety of the South China Sea and its control of Scarborough Shoal.
China has refused to acknowledge the ruling.
The Philippine government said there is no need to file a new case against China for the destruction of the reefs as suggested by the acting chief justice.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said they could bring up the matter in the Philippines’ next bilateral discussion with China.
While Panatag Shoal is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 that it is a traditional fishing ground of the Philippines, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. /ee
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