China using PH soil to build islands in WPS; probe sought – group
SAN ANTONIO, Zambales—Several environmental and militant groups raised the alarm again on Friday (April 9) over new reports that earth materials from dredging and mining in parts of the country, including this province, were being used in China’s West Philippine Sea reclamation and military infrastructure.
According to the Homonhon Environmental Rescuers Organization (Hero), the country’s natural resources are being depleted by “unabated” dredging, sand mining, and filling material extraction.
The group is verifying claims that these earth materials were transported to the disputed Spratly Islands, where China has continued to construct artificial islands and convert them into military bases in order to lay claim to nearly the entire South China Sea and exercise control over navigation and resource extraction.
The Chinese military buildup included the construction of bases on reefs inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
“It is very environmentally destructive, unsustainable and deprived local contractors from quality and affordable sand, gravel, aggregates and filling materials,” said Villardo “Billy” Abueme, Hero president, in a statement.
The issue was brought up again following China’s refusal to remove its vessels from the Julian Felipe Reef, which is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, despite Philippine government protests.
According to Abueme, the dredging and mining that involved Chinese vessels were “actually worse than invasion.”
“Literally they are taking Philippine soil out of the country, leaving poor villages, mostly farm communities to pay for the environmental backlash brought by the unsustainable and very destructive extractive activity,” Abueme said.
He said his group would urge the Senate, specifically Sen. Risa Hontiveros, to launch an investigation to put an end to the destructive activity.
Abueme added that dredging and mining operations were also ongoing in the Davao Region, Central Mindanao, Northern Luzon, and other Visayas regions.
According to Abueme, it is an “irony” that local contractors are facing stiff competition for quality filling materials and other earth materials, but exporters are being allowed to freely take out Philippine soil.
“If ever regulation is to be strengthened, it should be on the large quarry operations who feed their produce to giant ocean-going ships who bring these earth materials to China, Taiwan and where else,” said Abueme.
He added: “The volume of extracted earth materials is staggering at hundreds of millions of cubic meters, loaded into huge ocean-going cargo ships.”
The militant youth group KALikha UP Diliman had also assailed what it described as “long-term environmental damage that China is causing in our territories.”
Amber Quiban, KAlikha’s national campaign and advocacy officer, said such depletion of the country’s natural resources should be highlighted while the government is preoccupied with the plight of Filipino fishermen and national sovereignty.
KAlikha will hold an online forum to discuss these forms of aggression and their implications in national sovereignty.
“The West Philippine Sea is ours. And no aggression from China can say otherwise,” said KALikha UPD chair Camilo De Guzman.
“We are not for sale and we will not watch silently while our fisherfolk are being driven out of their fishing grounds further into poverty and hunger, especially during a pandemic,” De Guzman said.
In 2019, Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares said dredging and quarrying ships had been spotted in Zambales.
Colmenares said he personally saw three vessels docked offshore in the town of Masinloc.
He said local fishermen had also sent him photos of Chinese crew members in Cabangan town.
Seven undocumented Chinese nationals were detained in the same year on suspicion of being involved in illegal dredging activities in Masinloc.
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