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Gov’t urged to support diplomatic pressures to stop clam harvesting in West PHL Sea

A US scientist on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to support the ongoing diplomatic pressure to stop the harvest of clams and unsustainable fishing in the West Philippine Sea amid damage to its ecosystem due to Chinese activity.

In a briefing with the members of the House Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea, marine biologist Kent Carpenter showed evidence that marine organisms such as corals, giant clams, sharks, rays, and even lapu-lapu and pawikan have been affected by activities in the West Philippine Sea.

He pointed out that in 2018, after the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea case had been issued, China resumed extracting tridacna, a type of giant clam, from reef flats in these waters.

"We also have more satellite imagery that shows even in 2018, the sediments continue to bleed away from these islands. Meaning that corals don't have any chance at all of reproducing to the areas," Carpenter said.

"We assume that it will take decades if not centuries for coral reefs to be re-established in the islands that were destroyed," he added.

Carpenter said that what the government of the Philippines can do is to keep opposing activities that would cause further harm to the marine life in the West Philippine Sea.

"Continue to support diplomatic pressure if you can. This is something that I think is up to you, as the government of the Philippines, to sign and react to this," he said.

"I think that the public opinion was resoundingly against what China is doing in the West Philippine Sea, and whether or not this is something that is sustained or not is really up to the people of the Philippines to decide," he added.

Carpenter also urged the government to strengthen fisheries management at western and Central Philippines, and pursue genetic studies showing the link between the West Philippine Sea and Philippine fisheries.

UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director Jay Batongbacal has earlier said that the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea will be gone if Chinese illegal poaching in the area continues.

As of 2016, around 550 hectares of the Scarborough Shoal have already been damaged by Chinese poachers who do not only fish in the area but also harvest coral reefs, according to Batongbacal.

"Hindi ako umaasa na ang Scarborough Shoal ay magtatagal  ng limang taon kung hindi sila titigil sa  pagkayod doon," he said. — BM, GMA News