China should allow int’l inspection of Bajo de Masinloc–NSC exec

Bajo de Masinloc West Philippine Sea

BIG HAUL AT DISPUTED SHOAL Giant clams and corals, harvested from Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales province, are stacked on the deck and hold of a Chinese ship (inset), as a small Chinese boat scrapes the coral reef bed. China and the Philippines both claim the shoal, which lies within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines — China should open up Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, in the West Philippine Sea to international inspection following its denial of environmental destruction in the area, an official said Tuesday.

National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya made the call after Beijing denied the allegations despite “incontrovertible proof presented by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)” on Monday.

READ: PCG bares photos of China’s harvest of marine species

“In the face of China’s repeated denials, we call on China to open up Bajo de Masinloc to international inspection, and we also call on 3rd-party inspectors from relevant United Nations bodies or respected environmental organizations to determine the true situation therein in order to protect the environment,” Malaya said in a statement.

Citing PCG records, the NSC official said the agency presented evidence showing that Chinese fishermen have been transporting large quantities of giant clams, sea turtles, puffer fishes, stingrays, topshells, eels, and other marine animals since 2016.

READ: Tarriela: Chinese poachers harvesting giant clams during Duterte’s time

“Chinese entities have been continuously engaged in large-scale harvesting of endangered species, unlawfully exploiting the vulnerable species with wild abandon. Giant clams, among others, are declared protected species under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Faura,” he added.

Malaya likewise pointed out that China has no legal rights over Bajo de Masinloc since its “expansive claims” over the area “have been invalidated and nullified by the 2016 Arbitral ruling.”

“The Tribunal also found that Chinese authorities were aware that Chinese fishermen have harvested endangered sea turtles, coral, and giant clams on a substantial scale in the South China Sea (using methods that inflict severe damage on the coral reef environment) and had not fulfilled their obligations to stop such activities,” he said citing the  Arbitral Tribunal’s decision.