NGO files case vs China reclamation
A NONGOVERNMENT organization led by former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez on Wednesday filed a letter-complaint in the United Nations (UN) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) against China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, citing its negative impact on marine resources.
In his letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, Golez, who chairs the Movement and Alliance to Resist China’s Aggression (Marcha), urged the agencies to “investigate and take appropriate action” on China’s reclamation activities which have caused the “destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea.”
He cited the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas and the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the bases for the group’s complaint.
Last month, world leaders expressed their support for a new set of development goals which aim to curb poverty and hunger in the next 15 years. One of the 17 SDGs aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
“We are alarmed that China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea have caused and are causing irreparable damage to the coral reefs in the affected areas, more particularly in Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson South Reef, Gaven Reefs and Hughes Reef,” Golez said in his letter.
In an interview Wednesday, he quoted marine biologist John McManus who said China’s reclamation work in the South China Sea “constitutes the most rapid rate of permanent loss of coral reef area in human history.”
Golez noted that according to marine biology experts, the damage caused to the coral reefs in the area can affect the lives of around 300 million people who depend on the South China Sea, which accounts for 10 percent of the world’s seafood supply.
“It not only affects the Philippines but the whole Indo-Pacific area and the whole world,” Golez said, adding that the international community should be informed of the situation in the West Philippine Sea and “take action on the basis of [our] complaint.”
Golez expressed confidence that the UN and UNEP would agree with them that China’s activities “directly violate and sabotage the recently approved SDGs.” He hopes that through Marcha’s complaint, China would be “held accountable” and be compelled to stop its actions in the contested waters, to which Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also has overlapping claims.
Golez also said that he hopes that the issue on the West Philippine Sea would be raised and taken up in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting next month.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, speaking at the Banyan Tree Leadership Forum organized by the US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. on Monday night, urged the world community not to allow China to “rewrite the law of the sea and gobble up the maritime resources of at least four coastal states.”
Carpio said China’s maritime claims, encompassed by a nine-dash line in its official map, cover almost the entire South China Sea. With a report from Niña Calleja