Dead, crushed corals cover sandbar near Pag-asa Island
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — Piles of dead corals have covered the entire Sandy Cay 2, a small sandbar situated 3 kilometers (2 miles) west of Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in Kalayaan town, Palawan province.
In a visit to the area by the Inquirer on Sept. 22, the heaps of dead corals were seen reaching about 2 meters high and appeared to have been deliberately dumped onto the sandbar in an apparent attempt to reclaim the area.
The sandbar and the smaller Sandy Cay 1 that is closer to Pag-asa Island form part of the country’s territorial claims but are also being claimed by China, which has built facilities in the adjacent Zamora (Subi) Reef.
Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels have been posing as fishing boats in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) swarming the Escoda (Sabina) Shoal and Sandy Cay 2, according to the Philippine Army’s Western Command (Wescom). For artificial islands
Last week, government officials disclosed that China might be destroying and harvesting corals that they use in the reclamation and construction of artificial islands in the WPS. The Philippine Coast Guard also released a video last week showing the destroyed and bleached corals in Escolta Shoal.
In a previous report, Wescom said at least 33 Chinese militia vessels were spotted in the vicinity of Escolta Shoal on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7.
On Sept. 22, around 12 militia vessels were seen in the vicinity of Sandy Cay 2, along with a Chinese Coast Guard ship. At least 42 more militia vessels were spotted while anchored near Rozul (Iroquois) Reef the following day.
The Chinese Coast Guard ship is also intercepting and warding off small boats that are trying to access Sandy Cay 2, Wescom said.
Chinese Coast Guard vessels blocking fishermen from going to Sandy Cay 2 from Pag-asa Island was first reported by the Philippine government in 2021.
In an interview, Wescom chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos also confirmed the recent swarming of militia vessels in Sandy Cay.
“Sandy Cay is a known swarm area of CMM and the Chinese Coast Guard. During our last visit [on Sept. 22], there were at least 12 CMM vessels surrounding Sandy Cay 2. This is only 2 miles from Pag-asa Island where our troops regularly patrol,” Carlos said.