PH slams China for destroying marine life with reclamation works
THE Philippines on Monday accused China of damaging rich marine environment by destroying 300 acres of coral reef systems in its massive reclamation activities in the heavily contested South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
The Philippine government said the destruction has taken away US$ 100 million in potential economic revenues annually from coastal states.
The Department of Foreign Affairs pointed out elaborately for the first time the environmental consequences of the infrastructures China has been building in contested areas, citing results of studies made by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Recent reports and images have shown that China has been building “great wall of sand” with dredgers at work at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, which is also being claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.
“China’s massive reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea/ West Philippine Sea,” Charles Jose, DFA assistant secretary and spokesperson, said in a press briefing on Monday.
The Philippines rejected China’s recent explanation that it has not caused damage to the ecological environment of the South China Sea.
Last Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry went into detail about its reclamation works in the South China Sea, saying it has conducted “scientific assessments and rigorous tests before the reclamation activities began.
“The destruction of 300 acres of coral reef systems resulting from the reclamations is estimated to lead to economic losses to coastal states valued at US$100 million annually,” Jose said.
He said China has pursued these activities unilaterally, “disregarding peoples in the surrounding states who have depended on the sea for their livelihood for generations.”
The DFA also slammed China for “tolerating environmentally harmful fishing practices by its nationals” at Bajo de Masinloc, a large coral atoll west of Luzon, which has been among the areas being claimed by China.
This, Jose said, breached China’s obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The DFA expressed concern over the statement of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying who said that the reclamation activities would provide “comprehensive services to meet civilian demands and satisfy the need of necessary military defense.”
“Such statements by China only serve to raise the spectre of increasing militarization and threaten peace and stability in the region,” Jose said.
Asked if the DFA would include the information on the environmental consequences in its diplomatic protests against China and its arbitration case at the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal, Jose said it would consider that option.
“We will see if there is an opportunity to do that, especially during the oral arguments at the UN arbitral tribunal,” Jose said.
China’s reclamation works began immediately after the Philippines filed an arbitration case asking the UN arbitral tribunal to rule on its maritime entitlements and 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the UNCLOS.
“We have been pursuing the legal and diplomatic approaches. The Philippines have been working closely with members of the Asean for the early conclusion of the legally binding Code of Conduct, and the implementation of the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” Jose said.
The Philippines reiterated its call on China to stop its activities and be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state in the South China Sea and as a member of the international community.
The DFA cited the growing international concern on China’s works after US President Barack Obama issued his first strong statements saying the superpower has been bullying its small neighbors.
“We should not allow China to distract us from the real issues in the South China Sea, which are China’s illegitimate “nine-dash line” claim, and China’s unilateral and aggressive behavior in asserting that claim, as exemplified by its massive and unrestrained reclamation,” Jose said. SFM
Subscribe to our global nation newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.