Coral harvesting in WPS might be a prelude to reclamation—Tolentino

Photo courtesy of The Philippine Coast Guard.


China is possibly preparing to reclaim more areas in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the Rozul Reef or Iroquois Reef, Senator Francis Tolentino warned Monday.

In a television interview, Tolentino, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, said the harvesting of corals along Rozul Reef could be part of the possible reclamation in the area.

“There might be a different plan for that – not only the harvesting of corals and the destruction of it. Because killing the corals is a prelude to one thing: when you kill it, you can now do reclamation,” he said.

Over the weekend, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command reported that there was massive coral harvesting in Rozul Reef.

The report of missing and destroyed corals came following the sightings of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the area.

The report was confirmed by the Philippine Coast Guard, which found similar observations in the seabed of Escoda Reef (Sabina Shoal), also in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Tolentino, China’s actions in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“If we are to file for a claim for damages, it should be in the tribunal recognized by UNCLOS and the United Nations,” he said.

He noted that the Philippine government may file cases against China before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice, or the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Senate investigation

In a separate interview, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea called for a Senate inquiry.

“It’s ripe for a Senate resolution and investigation because it would not be the first time that China caused environmental degradation in our sea,” Hontiveros said.

“They also dredged our seafloor to invent their artificial islands, militarize them, within the West Philippine Sea and our exclusive economic zone to claim it as their territory,” she added.

The lawmaker expressed gratitude to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its discovery of the damaged seabed of Rozul and Escoda Reefs.

“Thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for revealing it, I think it deserves an investigation. We should add it to the long list of China’s debt to our country,” she said.

The Daily Tribune has sought comments from the Department of Foreign Affairs about the developments in the West Philippine Sea, but it has yet to respond as of press time.

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