AN environmental advocacy group and a private think tank have expressed support to push for the declaration of the Spratlys as a marine protected area.
Ysan Castillo, secretary-general of the Philippine Business Environmental Stewardship (PBEST), said the damage done to the marine ecosystems in the area is shocking.
“There must now be a conscious effort to protect remaining coral reefs and preserve marine resources,” Castillo lamented.
Castillo said protection of the fragile marine resources in the Spratlys is critical being the spawning area of fish caught in the coastal waters of Luzon, Palawan, Malaysia, the Sulu seas, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, as well as China.
Castillo aired the urgent environmental concern during a forum held on August 11, entitled “Post-Arbitration Series: A Focus on the Harm Done to the Environment,” organized by The Stratbase Institute (ADRI) and PBEST, in partnership with the Office of the Chancellor and the International Studies Department of the De La Salle University-Manila.
Stratbase ADRI President Dindo Manhit said, “We cannot afford a major fisheries collapse that will cause starvation to millions of people in the nations surrounding the Spratlys.
“A declaration by all concerned countries to preserve marine resources and the banning of destructive fishing in the disputed waters will be a positive move for food security and peace in the region.”
Manhit asked what happened to environmental groups who claim to espouse the rights of the marginalized.
“I believe the Filipinos need their zeal in this one,” Manhit remarked, when the destructive fishing practices of the Chinese were discussed during the said forum.
“The bottom line is that the government must unite every Filipino to one position where the nation can effectively stop the destruction of our marine environment,” Manhit said.
Prof. John McManus of the University of Miami pegs the economic damage from China’s incursions at nearly $6 billion per year from the destruction of an estimated 16,200 hectares of coral reef.
This approximation only factored in the environmental services provided by the coral reefs, not the human anguish brought about by this dispute. That is harder to ascertain.