PCG bares photos of China’s harvest of marine species

PCG bares photos of China’s harvest of marine species

/ 05:34 AM May 21, 2024

PCG bares photos of China’s harvest of marine species

EMPTIED This 2018 underwater photograph provided by the Philippine Coast Guard shows empty giant clams collected to anchor service boats by the Chinese at a shallow area of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

MANILA, Philippines — Previously unreleased photographs taken by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) showing the harvesting of giant clams and other marine species at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal during the previous administration were publicized for the first time on Monday.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said the photos taken from 2017 to 2019 were never made public during that time.


He said these were intended to show China’s behavior in previous years even before the government started its transparency strategy, which some of its critics said had worsened tensions in the West Philippine Sea.


READ: PH ocean health: From bad to worse amid China invasion of WPS

“This is for the Filipinos to understand that it’s not true that China’s aggressive activities, harmful environmental activities and harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea only happened during this administration. The objective is to give the right information to the Filipino people,” he said at a press briefing.

Tarriela said the photos had been forwarded to the Office of the President, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea and other agencies during the previous administration.

But he was not involved in the task force at that time and therefore could not say whether there was any response against China’s illegal activities.

“I can’t speak for the previous admin[istration]. What I’m saying is that this administration, [with] Gen. Eduardo Año [as the current national security adviser], supports the publication of all these images that happened before the time of President Marcos,” Tarriela said.

READ: PH can sue China for WPS reef, coral damage — Carpio


Marine damage

The information campaign exposing Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea started last year—a complete departure from the practice during Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency of belatedly reporting or not at all disclosing activities and incidents of harassment there.

At that time, too, the media were rarely invited to witness maritime operations firsthand.

During the previous administration, most data on the environmental marine damage by China were only disclosed through satellite images released by foreign observers.

The photos taken by the PCG from 2017 to 2019 showed an up-close look at illegal activities allegedly by Chinese fishermen. Other photos showed them going after stingrays, puffer fish, top shells and sea turtles.

Tarriela said the government’s documentation of China’s extraction of giant clams stopped in 2019 because there was nothing left.

“There’s no more remaining giant clams to harvest. They (the Chinese) became so desperate that they had to scour the entire seabed to find at least one giant clam,” he said.

International scrutiny

Reuters, in its report, said the Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations of environmental abuse.

Jonathan Malaya, assistant director general of the National Security Council, challenged Beijing to open Panatag to international scrutiny in order to show the environmental state of the shoal.

“We are alarmed and worried about the situation that’s happening there… They are the ones that are there right now. They are preventing us from going inside the lagoon,” he said at the same press briefing.

“We can ask third party environmental groups or even the United Nations to do a fact-finding mission to determine the environmental situation in Bajo de Masinloc,” he said, referring to Panatag’s other name.

Government consensus

Malaya said government consensus was growing on the need to file a case against China over its destruction of the shoal’s marine environment.

“There is a certain consensus within the government that we may need to file a case, but at the end of the day, it is the legal authorities who will decide. It will depend on the gravity of the evidence. We will not go to court if we will not win,” he said.

“If and when the decision has been made to file, that announcement will come from the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he added.

Two senators said over the weekend that the government could file a new case against China over its illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea.

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Control of Panatag, seized by China in 2012 following a standoff that year, figured in the Philippines’ case the next year before the arbitration tribunal in the Hague, which ruled in 2016 that Beijing’s claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea had no basis in international law. —with a report from Reuters

TAGS: Panatag Shoal, PCG

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