"A local environmental group on Thursday hit China for its reclamation efforts in disputed areas of West Philippine Sea.
“Chinese reclamation and military base construction in Spratlys islands are causing major ecological devastation,” Kalikasan national coordinator Clemente Bautista said in a statement.
“Siphoning millions of metric tons of sands as construction materials and ever increasing human and military activities in the Spratlys are wreaking havoc to the region’s marine ecology. China’s military build-up in the Spratly Islands is an ecological time bomb,” he added.
Bautista explained that the Spratlys group of islands consists of “one of the most preserved and biodiverse reefs in the world.” He pointed out that it is contiguous to Tubbataha Reef and part of the Coral Triangle, which contains at least 500 species of reef-building coral.
“The Coral Triangle is the center of marine biodiversity in the world, and more than 120 million people mostly Asians are dependent on its marine resources for food and livelihood,” Kalikasan said.
Recent satellite photos show that China has been building an airstrip on Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), which lies west of Spratly Islands.
Last month, Inquirer reported that about 80 fishermen were driven away by the Chinese coast guard from their traditional fishing ground near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Earlier this year, another boat carrying fishermen from Pangasinan and Zambales was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship.
“The Chinese military is violating the rights of Filipino and other Asian fishermen to seek livelihood and benefit from marine resources in the area,” Bautista said. “Denying them livelihood will result to loss of income and more hardships to their families.”
The group called China’s actions in South China Sea “bullying” and “conduct unbecoming.” It said the recent firing of water cannons against Filipino fishermen “perpetuated fear among our countrymen.”
“The Chinese government, in its aspiration to lord over the Asian region, is using its military might to intimidate its Asian neighbors like Philippines and Vietnam. In doing so, it transgresses national sovereignty, and causes marine degradation and human rights violations,” he added.
Bautista said the problem is that China has been taking advantage of the “weak military and governance capacity of the Aquino government.”
On the other hand, he said it is also partly the fault of the government for failing to develop its military capacity and to assert sovereignty in West Philippine Sea.
“The PH government should intensify its diplomatic efforts so that China and other Asian governments will recognize the PH sovereignty over our islands,” he said. “Meanwhile it should seek bilateral and multilateral discussions with China to set up specific mechanisms in recognizing the rights of fisherfolks, whether Chinese or Filipinos, to build their livelihood in West Philippine Sea.”
The Philippine government has repeatedly insisted on a rules-based and diplomatic approach when dealing with territorial disputes in South China Sea. It has also warned the international community that the reclamation has been causing damage to the marine environment."