DFA concerned reported destruction of corals by foreign ships put people's livelihood at stake
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed concern Tuesday over the reported destruction of corals by the foreign vessels in the West Philippine Sea as it will put the livelihood of millions of people at stake.
“We are seriously concerned about reports of the destruction of corals in Rozul Reef, a maritime feature located in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. The Philippines has consistently raised the alarm over ecologically harmful activities, conducted by foreign vessels, in our maritime zones, an issue extensively discussed in the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea," DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said.
"We, therefore, call on everyone concerned to act responsibly and cease all activities that can damage our precious marine environment. The well-being of millions of people who depend on the South China Sea for their livelihood is at stake," she added.
In an interview with reporters, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro stressed the need to validate the reported destruction of corals before they will coordinate with the DFA for the filing of diplomatic protest.
"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 etc," he said.
In her social media account, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the reported destruction of coral around Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal is "troubling".
"Habitat damage harms ecosystems and negatively affects lives and livelihoods. We are working with our friends, partners, allies to protect Philippine natural resources," she said.
Japan Ambassador to the Philippines, Kazuhiko Koshikawa described the reported coral destruction as "very alarming news".
"Our oceans are the lifeblood of our planet, and coral reefs are its colorful heartbeats. Let's preserve and protect these vital ecosystems for generations to come," he said.
In an interview at the state television, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, Commodore Jay Tarriela said based on the video taken during their inspection the coral in the affected shoal and reef was "totally dead".
"We can see that the coral in the entire vicinity of Escoda Shoal and Rozul Reef are totally dead. What I said in our press statement, there are minimal or no signs of life that can be seen there," he said.
However, Tarriela noted that the PCG does not have clear proof that the destruction of coral was made by the Chinese militia.
"We don’t have any clear proof to directly pinpoint that the activities that damaged the coral was done by the Chinese maritime militia but what is certain is that from August 9 to September 11 we monitored the presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels in these areas. They were there in that particular area and then right after they left that’s the time we conducted an underwater survey," he said. Robina Asido/DMS