Alejano: China’s clam poaching may be a prelude to reclamation
MANILA, Philippines — China’s extraction of giant clams and destruction of corals at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal could be a prelude to Beijing’s reclamation plans in the disputed waters, Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list said on Wednesday.
“It makes sense that China might be allowing or even directing its fishermen to exhaust all available marine resources in Scarborough since these would be destroyed anyway if China proceeds with the reclamation,” the Otso Diretso senatorial candidate said.
“It should be noted also that the extraction of giant clams is happening in the presence of Chinese Coast Guard,” said Alejano, a former Marine captain.
He cited earlier US reports speculating that China was planning to reclaim the shoal, which Chinese forces seized in 2012 after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippine government was preparing a case against China for serious environmental damage caused by its activities in the West Philippine Sea, the local name of the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
“It is not new to us how China is destroying the whole of South China Sea as it continues to reclaim islands,” Alejano said.
He cited the 2016 decision of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines and invalidating China’s nine-dash-line claims over practically the entire South China Sea.
That ruling, according to Alejano, “noted how the reclamation activities of China are destroying the coral beds and altering the marine environment.”
“If this continues, nothing will be left for the Filipinos in the future,” he said.
“We are being robbed today by China and we are also being robbed of a nation abundant with natural resources in the future,” the Magdalo lawmaker added.
Alejano called on the government to vigorously protest China’s actions.
“The Philippine government should protest and demand from China to stop its illegal activities in our waters. China’s actions are not only an affront to our sovereignty but also a proof of their continued disregard of their international obligations on protection of the marine environment,” he said.
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