PNA photo
PNA photo

Reef harvesting being validated

China has reclaimed land in the Spratlys Group of Islands, where it built airstrips and radar and missile stations

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Tuesday the government was validating if the reported coral reef destruction in the West Philippine Sea could be preparatory to China's reclaiming land to build artificial islands.

"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 the reclamation of artificial islands," Teodoro said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard had observed the destruction of the marine environment resources at 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 at Rozul Reef in August, a month after they drove away around 50 Chinese maritime militia vessels from the area.

China has reclaimed land in the Spratlys Group of Islands, where it built airstrips and radar and missile stations.

Carlos said about 40 Chinese fishing vessels were spotted in the area on 15 September. He noted that the latest figure was higher than the 33 vessels spotted on 24 August and the 24 monitored on 7 September.

Swarming was also observed at Escoda Shoal, where five Chinese fishing vessels were spotted, and at Baragatan Bank, where two CFVs were seen. This was followed by a report that the once abundant coral reefs at Rozul Reef were "extensively" destroyed after the Chinese militia ships left the swarmed area.

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

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