Apr 27, 2020

On Apr. 27, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed a resolution urging the executive department to exert legal and diplomatic pressure upon the Chinese government to cease all ecologically destructive activities in the West Philippine Sea. Moreover, she pointed out that China must pay reparations for the damages it caused to the reef ecosystems in the area.

In Senate Resolution No. 369, the senator cited the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) regarding China’s breach of “obligations with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.”

Moreover, the resolution said that the PCA found out that “China was aware of, tolerated, protected and failed to prevent its fishermen from engaging in the harvesting giant clams in a manner severely destructive of coral reef ecosystems.”

Additionally, the construction of artificial structures in the area, including the “Great Wall of Sand,” had also caused severe and irreparable harm to the reef ecosystems.

“Unlawful Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea are estimated to have caused at least 33 billion pesos of damage annually to marine ecosystems within the Philippines’ continental shelf and exclusive economic zone since Philippines vs. China was filed in 2013,” the resolution read.

The senator noted that this estimate was based on a 2012 study published in the international journal Ecosystem Services which pegged the value per hectare of a coral reef at $353,429 (P18 million). According to satellite images, Chinese activities had caused ecological damage to a total of 1,850 hectares of reef ecosystems in the Panatag Shoal and the Spratly Islands.

Hontiveros also claimed that China had taken advantage of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “by unilaterally establishing new administrative bodies in the disputed territory and by imposing Chinese names upon more than 80 islands, reefs, shoals and ridges.”

In line with this, the senator added that the funds which will come from China’s payment for reparations could be used for the government’s response to COVID-19 in addition to restoring and renewing the vulnerable marine ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea.

Last Apr. 22, the Department of Foreign Affairs also announced that the Philippines has lodged two diplomatic protests against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea for their violations of international law and Philippine sovereignty.


Header photo by Richard A. Reyes for Inquirer

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TAGS: china china coral reef damage coral reefs risa hontiveros west ph sea West Philippine Sea