DENR to consider report on vessels dumping waste in the West Philippine Sea
(Philstar.com) – July 13, 2021 – 3:46 p.m.
Manila, Philippines (Update 5:12 p.m.) – The Environment and Natural Resources Ministry said on Tuesday it would examine allegations that raw sewage dumped by hundreds of ships anchored in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, part of which is the sea of the western Philippines, damaged coral reefs in the surface.
“On the issue of waste disposal in the West Philippine Sea, [w]I will coordinate [with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of National Defense] first on the authenticity of the allegation, “DENR Undersecretary Benny Antpoda said in a message to reporters.
“[A]near that we b[e] seeking the attention of the Chinese [government through our Department of Foreign Affairs]”, he added.” We will also validate if indeed [these] are [C]Chinese ships. “
Antiporda referred to a report by the US geospatial imaging and data analysis company Simularity who found that the damage caused by the dumping of raw sewage on the reefs “in the last five years only is visible from space” and that it will take “decades to recover”.
This damage “is in addition to the well-documented destruction of reefs caused by the harvest of giant clams and the construction of artificial islands in China,” read the report presented Monday at an online forum organized by the Stratbase ADR Institute.
Simularity further warned that the damage to the reefs “directly affects fish stocks throughout the South China Sea and may lead to a hunger crisis in coastal areas and a collapse of commercial fishing” in the South China Sea. critical waterway. “This is a disaster of epic proportions and we are nearing the point of no return.”
As of June 17, 236 ships, probably Chinese, had been spotted at Union Banks, as shown in satellite images released by the American company.
Christian Maño of Radio DZRH on Tuesday posted a screenshot of a message from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying that the allegation that Chinese ships are dumping rubbish into the West Philippine Sea is “not true” . He also said a photo used in the report “came from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia,” but made no comment on the satellite images shown by Simularity.
Neither the Defense Ministry nor Lorenzana released an official statement on the Simularity report.
Senators urge government to hold China to account
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senator Risa Hontiveros, in separate statements, urged the DENR to confirm whether the information was true and to hold responsible parties to account.
“National and international laws prohibit ships from dumping their trash and waste into our oceans. Under Philippine laws, such environmental crimes are punishable by jail time and a heavy fine,” Recto said. “But even without these laws, decent human behavior commands civilized men not to turn rich fishing grounds into a cesspool of dung.”
“The DENR should investigate this matter and, if necessary, file a complaint with the court. The government cannot fine the rubbish on the sidewalks while turning a blind eye to it, ”he added.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros, in a statement written in Filipino, pointed out that “there has been no background report from the [DENR] on the value of the natural resources lost and destroyed in the West Philippine Sea. ”
The senator tabled a resolution in April last year calling on China to pay more than 200 billion pesos for the destruction of marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.
She said calculations made by her office based on multiple reports revealed that Beijing owed Manila nearly 800 billion pesos for damage to coral reef ecosystems and missing fish stocks in the West Philippine Sea. .
“It would be better if the DENR itself had an official report that calculates the amount of damages that China should pay,” Hontiveros added. “This can serve as a standard for our charge against the continued aggression from China.”
Senator Francis Pangilinan, in a statement written in Filipino, said continued reef destruction could starve “millions of people who depend on the resources of the Western Philippine Sea.”
He also highlighted the potential of the country’s EEZ in the West Philippine Sea as an energy source that could protect Filipinos from oil price spikes.
“This is how China responds to submissive, tight-lipped and cowardly. We owe nothing to those who steal our seas and oceans. [and] insult our fishermen, ”Pangilinan said.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe said that “the act of dumping rubbish in the area makes it clear that the dumper knows that the West Philippine Sea is not theirs, otherwise he would have respected the ecological value of the area. rich fishing area “.
“We can only hope this awakens the administration to the stinging reality that China does not respect international law, whether it is our territorial or environmental rights.”
China does not recognize the arbitration award that invalidated its vast claims to the South China Sea, which includes the western Philippine Sea.
It continues to deploy ships in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone despite several protests from Manila.
– Bella Perez-Rubio with reports by Patricia Lourdes Viray and Gaea Katreena Cabico