Reef damage: make China pay up P216 B per year

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Climate Change Commissioner Albert Dela Cruz and Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela seethed. Marine biologists had just shown them videos and data. Chinese trespassers recently pulverized 12,000 hectares of corals in the West Philippine Sea.

Heavily damaged were Rozul (Iroquois) Reef and Escoda (Sabina) Shoal. No Filipino eyewitnesses saw the actual coral crushing. But satellite images and signals pinpointed Chinese fishing trawlers berthed there since November 2023.

Another telltale sign of Chinese environmental vandalizing was the way the corals were grinded. Very similar to how Chinese poachers in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal replace ship propellers with circular saws to dislodge endangered giant clams.

Rozul and Escoda are southside of Recto (Reed) Bank, fish-rich shallow waters off Palawan. Beijing covets the 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of gas in Recto’s Sampaguita Fields.

Southwestward is Ayungin (Second Tomas) Shoal where the Philippine Navy’s beached BRP Sierra Madre stands guard. To the northwest is Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, which Beijing stole in 1995 and concreted into an island fortress.

Locals avoid Recto ever since president Rody Duterte in June 2019 justified the ramming and sinking there of an anchored Filipino wooden boat by a Chinese steel trawler. The aliens abandoned 22 Filipinos thrown into the cold sea that midnight. “An ordinary sea accident,” Duterte shrugged.

West Philippine Sea is the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. It lies within the international South China Sea, which Beijing claims via an interchanging nine- or ten-dash line.

“Coral destruction is inestimable and irreparable,” Dela Cruz told Sapol-dwIZ: “Twelve thousand hectares is only the surface. Not yet quantified are the meters-high sides and sand-embedded roots of the immobile animals. Not to forget the fish that mate, spawn, feed there.”

Reefs also contain minerals for high technology and substances for new medicines. They take centuries to form, and China’s smashing will take centuries more to restore nature.

China’s motive is unknown. It could be to thwart Philippine plans to secure Rozul, Escoda and Recto. Perhaps deter fishing by Filipinos in their own waters. Or plain hooliganism by Chinese maritime militia escorted by China coastguards. Recto is 650 miles from China, well beyond its own EEZ.

China also degraded Sandy Cays 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the edge of WPS. The new-formed islets are within the 12-mile territorial waters of Pag-asa, main island of Palawan’s Kalayaan municipality.

Rubble and dead corals were piled up six feet high. Intruders apparently rushed to form new protrusions on the sea surface. “I don’t know if you can find any island in the Philippines formed by nature, typhoon or current that will grow that high [and that fast],” said University of the Philippines Biologist Prof. Jonathan Anticamara.

Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio theorized that China was building artificial islands in order to legitimize its concreting in 2013 of nearby Zamora (Subi) Reef into an airstrip. China misinterprets international law, thinking it can reduce Pag-asa’s 12-mile territorial waters via four artificial islets.

There’s a way to compute reef ruin. UP marine scientist Deo Florence Onda, PhD, proposed the use of Dutch researcher Elsevier’s method. That is, one hectare of reef produces $353,429, or P18 million wealth per year.

That’s the same amount the Philippines loses per hectare per year due to China’s criminality. Manila can sue Beijing for damages.

The math: 12,000 hectares x P18 million = P216 billion a year, starting 2024.

In 2020 international maritime lawyer Jay Batongbacal, PhD, reported 1,850 hectares destruction since 2013 in Panatag, Panganiban, Subi and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs. Under Elsevier’s formula, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario (now deceased) calculated at P231.7 billion the damage in seven years.

China should be made to pay up that P231 billion as well.


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Lithuania is offering to help Philippine cybersecurity. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis invited Filipino officials last month to attend the Baltic state’s next Exercise Amber Mist. It holds annual cyber-defense drills with global allies and highlights latest technologies.

China has been cyber-sabotaging Philippine government agencies. Confidential electronic files and websites are hacked, and malware planted. Recently, Chinese agents wiretapped Philippine military closed door talks on the West Philippine Sea.

Landsbergis said his country of 2.8 million people is under constant cyberattack by Russia and China. “We’ve developed expertise in counteractions,” he said. “We can share these with the Philippines.”

Staunchly democratic, little Lithuania was the first to break from the Soviet Union in 1990. Landsbergis’ grandfather Vytautas Landsbergis led its independence movement.

Adopting “values foreign policy” in 2021, Lithuania let Taiwan open a diplomatic office in Vilnius. Treating it as a virtual embassy, China retaliated with economic bullying. Beijing forbade all imports from Lithuania and told client regimes to do likewise.

Lithuania’s export revenues plummeted 65 percent. But it stood up to the bully and expanded trade with other lands to recover losses. With European Union backing, it sued China before the World Trade Organization.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM).

Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc

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