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Philippines keen on seeking compensation from China over marine damage in West Philippine Sea

The Philippine government is evaluating the cost of the damage done by China on the country’s maritime resources within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) to determine how much compensation is in order, Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta Teh said Friday.

“What the government is doing is we are documenting our [marine] resources so we can establish a baseline data,” Teh said during a virtual press conference hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

“Together with the documentation, we are doing valuation of our resources so that we would really know the value of our resources. We cannot manage what we do not know. Once we know those data, we will be able to chart the next steps, including legal actions that may be necessary,” she added.

The destroyed marine resources were among the subject of discussions in the 2016 Hague ruling, which rejected China’s nine dash line claim in the South China Sea.

According to the ruling,  China destroyed the marine resources in South China Sea by:

  • toleration and protection of, and failure to prevent Chinese fishing vessels engaging in harmful harvesting activities of endangered species at Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal and other features in the Spratly Islands
  • island building activities at Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef and
  • construction of installations and artificial islands at Mischief Reef without the authorization of the Philippines

The Hague ruling also stated that such actions resulted in overall loss of structural complexity and decreased live coral cover that severely affected the reef fish community, a drop in coral cover by 95% from its original value and China being responsible for almost 70 square kilometers of coral reef damage.

Teh said that determining the value of marine resources destroyed, including the giant clams within Philippines' EEZ, need to be comprehensive.

“We need to ensure how much the damage is, how can it be compensated and if not, to determine what other options we have,” Teh stressed.

Based on DENR records, 235 of the Philippines’ 1,816 Marine Protected Areas are located in West Philippine Sea.

Teh, however, noted that claimants of the South China Sea need not be hostile with each other and instead establish cooperation to protect the environment and marine resources which would benefit all countries.

“In so far as environment and marine resources are concerned, we can enhance our cooperation because we have the same end goal: to protect the ecosystem because this would mean sustaining the resources, ensuring food security because for one, fisheries will be available for all countries,” Teh pointed out.

“Environment protection is a ripe jumping ground for building a consensus among countries. After all, ecosystems will not recognize boundaries, territorial disputes or maritime entitlements,” she added.—LDF, GMA News