THE Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) urged the Marcos Jr. administration to pursue the filing of an environmental case against China over the destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said they are “strongly encouraging” the government to file an environmental case against the people behind the destruction of the country’s coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
In doing so, Fausto pointed out, the world would be aware of what is happening to the future food sources of the Filipinos.
“Nakakaiyak. Iyong sinira ang coral reefs, below the belt na iyon [That’s so heartbreaking. Destroying the coral reefs, that’s below the belt],” PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said during his group’s forum on Wednesday.
“Iyong political, territorial, okay yon pag-awayan politically, diplomatically. Pero iyong corals eh bahay ng mga isda, hindi na makatao iyan,” he added.
(It is okay to dispute territories politically and diplomatically. But to destroy the corals, which house the fish, that’s inhumane.)
Earlier this week, defense officials confirmed that coral reefs in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal in the West Philippine Sea were destroyed by Chinese Maritime Militia. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/09/18/pcg-confirms-severe-reef-damage-in-2-wps-features/)
Diovanie De Jesus of Oceana said it might take decades for coral reefs in the area to recover since they were totally destroyed.
De Jesus also noted that payment for damages may not be enough to cover the rehabilitation of the area but would still be better than zero.
“At least we can ask for something. We can use these payments for other projects like establishing marine protected areas in the West Philippine Sea and protect existing reefs other than these destroyed reefs,” he said in a television interview on Wednesday.
De Jesus pointed out that this is not the “only case” where the country’s coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea were destroyed.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier said the Department of Justice (DOJ) will recommend to Malacañang the filing of cases against China for the destruction of coral reefs and harvesting of corals in the West Philippine Sea. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/09/19/doj-to-recommend-filing-of-case-vs-china-over-destruction-of-maritime-environment-in-wps/)
In 2019, the BusinessMirror reported that China’s increasing demand for food will deplete marine resources in the West Philippine Sea and wreak havoc on the country’s fish supply in the near future. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2019/07/04/china-fast-outstripping-phl-fish-catch-in-eez-maritime-experts-warn/)
The loss is not just on account of China’s rapid devouring of Philippine fish. Its massive reclamation and artificial island building has destroyed vital coral reefs that provide habitat to marine resources. According to estimates by marine experts, the Philippines is losing at least $647.5 million (P33.67 billion) annually from the marine resources—within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—that were destroyed by China.
MEANWHILE, senators are stepping up a clamor for China to pay for environmental damages it caused in the West Philippine Sea.
Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros led the push after the Philippine Coast Guard recently confirmed that the destruction of coral reefs in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal was most likely caused by Chinese maritime militia vessels.
The senator then filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 804, condemning the massive coral harvesting and urging the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an inquiry into the matter.
“We should seek payment for damages caused by China in the WPS. Aabot ng bilyon-bilyon ang makukuha natin kung mao-obligang magbayad ang Tsina. Ninanakawan na nga nila ng hanapbuhay ang ating mga mangingisda, winawasak pa nila ang ating likas-yaman. Kung mabayaran ng Tsina ang lahat ng utang niya sa Pilipinas, siguradong makakatulong ito sa kinakaharap nating krisis sa ekonomiya. [We can get billions of compensation if China is obliged to pay up. They have not just deprived our people of livelihood; they have stolen our natural riches. If China is made to pay up all it owes the Philippines, that can help us deal with the economic crisis],” Hontiveros said.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the senator filed PSR No. 369, calling on the Executive to exert legal and diplomatic efforts so that China would foot the bill for our Covid-19 response. This call came after Dr. Deo Onda, a scientist from the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute, estimated that the Philippines was losing around P33.1 billion annually from the damaged reef ecosystems in Panatag Shoal and Spratlys Islands due to China’s reclamation activities in the area.
Onda then explained that the amount was determined using a baseline value of $353,429 or P18 million per hectare per year for coral reefs based on a study conducted by Elsevier, a Dutch company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical information and analytics.
“This will not be the first time for us to seek reparations. Japan paid our country for her destruction of Manila during World War II, and in more recent history, the United States of America also paid the Philippines P87 million, after the USS Guardian damaged Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. May karapatan tayong maningil [We have the right to demand payment],” Hontiveros explained.
The resolution also states that the government cannot tolerate the continuing harms to the environment, economy, and security brought about by China’s incursions, and must explore available recources to hold China accountable, including a claim for damages to be filed with the Permanent of Court Arbitration.
“Our 2016 Arbitral Award clearly invalidated China’s sweeping and expansive claims in the WPS. This is a case we won because of our dogged commitment to abide by international law and uphold the truth. It is only right that we pursue all options to make China pay,” Hontiveros concluded.
With a report by Butch Fernandez