Teodoro: DND validating links between coral destruction in WPS, artificial island reclamation

Photograph courtesy of Facebook GIBO Teodoro PH

Defense chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said they are validating whether the reported coral reef destruction in Rozul (Iroquois) Reef and Escoda (Sabina) Shoal has been linked with the possible reclamation of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to validate it because according to the arbitral award, that is a violation of an international treaty—the destruction of maritime life, particularly if the coral destruction is a cause of, or used for reclamation of artificial islands,” Teodoro said on the sidelines of the blessing of the brand new Cessna 208B (C-208B) Grand Caravan EX ISR aircraft at Clark Air Base in Mabalacat City, Pampanga on Tuesday, 19 September.

Once validated, Teodoro said the Department of National Defense will coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs for the filing of appropriate actions against the Chinese government.

Rozul Reef is located at the southern end of Recto (Reed) Bank in the northeastern portion of Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands) within the country’s exclusive economic zone in Palawan.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard had observed the destruction of the marine environment resources in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal amid the swarming of Chinese militia vessels as early as July.

AFP WesCom chief, Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, reported a “concerning resurgence” of Chinese vessels in Rozul Reef in August, just a month after they drove away around 50 Chinese maritime militia vessels in the area.

Carlos said about 40 Chinese fishing vessels have been spotted in the area on 15 September. He noted that the latest figure was higher compared to the 33 vessels spotted on 24 August and the 24 monitored on 7 September. While, swarming was also observed in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, where five CFVs were spotted, and two CFVs in Baragatan (Nares) Bank.

It was followed by a report that coral reefs—which were once abundant in Rozul Reef—were “extensively” destroyed after the Chinese militia ships left the swarmed area.

In August, Carlos reported that they have monitored more than 400 fishing vessels within the entire WPS, with 85 percent of these believed to be Chinese-owned ships.

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