THE Philippines on Monday slammed China’s massive reclamation activities which are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.
The construction works have destroyed 300 acres of coral reefs, resulting in an estimated $100 million in annual economic losses to coastal states, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
“China’s massive reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea,” Jose said.
He also accused China of tolerating environmentally harmful methods among its fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground that it has controlled since 2012, following a tense maritime standoff with the Philippines.
Satellite photos from the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released last week also showed a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto Mischief Reef -- which is claimed by Manila.
Jose said this highlighted the speed of China’s massive reclamation which threatens to dilute rival claims of smaller governments like the Philippines.
On Monday he raised alarm over his Chinese counterpart, Hua Chunying’s, comments last week saying the reclamation would serve Beijing’s military and defence needs.
“Such statements by China only serve to raise the spectre of increasing militarisation and threaten peace and stability in the region,” he said.
The Philippines maintains that China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, based on its nine-dash-line map, is illegal, he added.
“We call on China to stop the reclamation activities and to be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the international community.”
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also said Beijing’s massive reclamation works have huge effects on security in the Asia Pacific region.
“That has a big effect on regional security,” Gazmin told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday. “The region will be affected in terms of freedom of navigation, freedom of air space.”
“We are worried and we continue to stick to our initial reaction which is to apply the rule of law,” Gazmin added.
Meanwhile, two members of the left-leaning Makabayan Bloc welcomed the growing international support the Philippines is gaining against China’s reclamation activities.
Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said China should stop its reclamation activities now and instead go to the international tribunal hearing the matter if indeed they have the legal basis and evidence to do so.
“As it is China’s expansionist policy based on its 9-dash line theory is without legal, historical and moral basis,” Colmenares, a House Deputy Minority Leader, said.
“Every Filipino should defend our territory and exclusive economic zones and Pres. Aquino should fortify our positions in the area to counter China’s aggressive acts,” Colmenares added.
Zarate, for his part, said United States President Barack Obama was correct when the latter said China’s expansion is a calculated response.
Nevertheless, Zarate said the US would not risk a war with China because its economy would collapse without China.
“The US owes China at least US$ 1.28 trillion and has a total of US$579 billion in trade with China, compared to only US$17.6 billion with the Philippines,” Zarate said.
“All the US would do is posture that it would defend the Philippines but it will not. That is the hard and cold reality, so it is best that we build our strength and rely on our own resolve with the help of the international community to defend our sovereignty rather than enter into lopsided deals like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” Zarate added.
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