Senate defense panel backs reef damage case vs China


THE chairman of the Senate Defense committee is supporting the plans of the Executive to file a case against China for environmental damage to Philippine reefs and corals, saying the issue at stake “transcends territorial claims and disputes” because the “environmental degradation and destruction by China [is] a violation of an obligation” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), where Beijing is a signatory.

“Malaki ang tiwala ko na masusing pinag-aralan ang kasong planong isampa laban sa China sa pagsira ng corals at iba pang diumano’y environmental crimes sa West Philippine Sea at kasama na dito ang kaso na naipanalo na natin noong 2016,” said Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Sunday.

[I am confident that the plan to file a case against China for destroying our corals and other alleged environmental crimes in the West Philippine Sea was studied well, and our arbitral tribunal victory in 2016 was considered here as well].

The term “West Philippine Sea” is “a geopolitical designation of our government, an alternative name to the parts of the South China Sea that are within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which we have territorial and maritime claims in that region,” explained the senator.

The phrase reflects, he noted, the Philippines’s legal possession of   this area. “The Hague-based UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled overwhelmingly in our favor in determining China’s claims [of a nine-dash line across much of the South China Sea] as unlawful.”

Nothing, added Estrada, “prevents us from filing a legal case, especially based on established international laws and agreements” such as the Unclos.

“What is at stake here transcends territorial claims and disputes, it’s the environmental degradation and destruction by China, a violation of an obligation under the Unclos to protect and preserve the marine environment.”

Earlier, BusinessMirror reported that the Executive, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), was planning to file a case against Beijing for the massive environmental damage to the reefs and corals within the Philippines’s EEZ.

DENR said it will establish a modest research facility in Pag-asa Island, in the remote town of Kalayaan, Palawan next year.

Last week, DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga visited Pag-asa Island, some 500 kilometers away from Puerto Princesa.

Pag-asa is the biggest of the islands in the Kalayaan Island Group which is within the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The DENR chief said putting up a research facility in the area is part of the DENR’s move to start accounting for the country’s natural wealth and measure the country’s treasure to rev up the so-called blue economy.