AFP sounds alarm: Rozul Reef’s corals completely wiped out
MANILA, Philippines — Coral reefs in Rozul Reef, where suspected Chinese militia vessels have been spotted, are now entirely gone, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced on Saturday.
The Western Command Commander expressed suspicions that these Chinese vessels have been harvesting corals from the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“We noticed coral harvesting in their swarming areas. After they departed, we pinpointed the location and dispatched divers for an underwater survey. They observed that no corals remained – everything was damaged, with debris scattered,” Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos stated during the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
“There’s nothing left in the area,” Carlos emphasized later.
Based on the observations of Navy divers, Carlos believes the coral harvesting appeared recent.
“If the damage is old or new, but from the untrained eyes of the Navy divers, it looks recent,” he stated.
Carlos said the AFP is coordinating with scientists and experts for an assessment of the area.
“We are not drawing any conclusions at this time. It’s a work in progress,” he noted.
He emphasized the presence of the Chinese vessels in the WPS is concerning, given the Philippines’ rights within its exclusive economic zone.
“We are the only ones who have the right to the West Philippine Sea, and it looks like someone is exercising that right without our permission,” he added.
Vice Admiral Carlos said the incident took place in July, noting their ships left the area briefly at that time due to weather.
On Thursday, September 14, the AFP noted that several CMVs were again spotted in the WPS during an air patrol.