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By Junex Doronio

AFTER BEING CALLED A HYPOCRITE by Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday shot back at China’s denial that its Chinese Maritime Militia is polluting the waters and the Philippines is only creating “drama” over the destruction of corals in parts of the West Philippine Sea.

“Stop making allegation that BRP Sierra Madre is polluting the water, but blame it to your numerous Chinese Maritime Militia swarming the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said.

On Saturday, September 23, Teodoro called China a hypocrite over its remarks on environmental damage in the WPS, saying these “will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese Government.”

Earlier last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning has flatly denied allegations that the Chinese were responsible for the damage to corals in the West Philippine Sea while demanding the removal of BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal.

“The Philippines’ accusations have no factual basis. We urge relevant party of the Philippines to stop creating a political drama from fiction,” Mao said on Thursday, September 21.

She added that if the Philippines truly cares about the environment, it should remove the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal, the formation that China called Ren’ai Jiao.

Mao said the Philippines should stop the vessel “from discharging polluted water into the ocean and not let the rusting warship bring irrevocable harm to the ocean.”

She was referring to BRP Sierra Madre, which was deliberately grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999 during the administration of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and it has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory since then.

The past administrations of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Rodrigo Roa Duterte noticeably did not add other physical symbols of Philippine sovereignty in the WPS.

“The destruction of corals goes far beyond drama. It is a violent act and a serious crime against humanity,” Tarriela stressed. (ai/mnm)

Image Courtesy of: CNN Philippines

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has called for an immediate halt to activities that are detrimental to the environment in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

On Monday, the DFA expressed deep concern over reports of coral destruction in Rozul Reef, located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Coral reefs, which once thrived in the shallow waters near Rozul (Iroquios) Reef in the WPS, have disappeared, likely due to extensive harvesting, according to an official from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who reported this on Saturday.

Vice Admiral Albert Carlos, AFP Western Command chief, confirmed these findings after a survey of Rozul Reef, where Chinese maritime militia vessels had been observed “swarming” by Philippine military air assets on September 6 and 7.

The DFA stressed that the Philippines has consistently raised concerns about ecologically damaging activities by foreign vessels in its maritime zones, an issue extensively discussed in the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea.

In a statement, the DFA called on all concerned parties to act responsibly and cease any activities that could harm the precious marine environment. They emphasized, “The well-being of millions of people who depend on the South China Sea for their livelihood is at stake.”

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri expressed outrage over the destruction of the marine ecosystem in the WPS, as the continued presence of Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ EEZ threatens global food security.

Zubiri pointed to the reported damage to coral reefs in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, where numerous Chinese maritime militia vessels have been spotted operating illegally.

He emphasized that this destruction affects not only the Philippines but the entire world because the fish species breeding in these reefs are harvested by fishermen from various nations, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. Therefore, protecting these coral reefs is in the best interest of the global community.

Zubiri revealed that the Senate is collaborating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to establish marine ranger stations in key coastal areas nationwide to safeguard the country’s marine resources in the WPS. He has also requested a budget allocation of P600 million for this initiative, emphasizing the critical need for it.

Furthermore, Zubiri pledged to advocate for larger allocations in the 2024 national budget for the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy to acquire additional patrol boats and equipment. Under the proposed P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget, the PCG is set to receive P24.014 billion, a nearly 10 percent increase from its current budget, while the Navy’s budget will increase to P40.97 billion from its current allocation of P34.98 billion. (AI/MNM)