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China vessels dumping human waste in parts of West Philippine Sea, photos show

Human waste and sewage from hundreds of Chinese ships anchored in the South China Sea and parts of the West Philippine Sea are causing massive marine damage to the resource-rich waters, a US-based expert said Monday.

Liz Derr, founder and CEO of Simularity, which specializes in geospatial analysis and provides satellite data imagery, revealed that Chinese ships have been dumping raw sewage every day for several years on reefs, creating harmful Chlorophyll-a blooms in the waters.

“It is so intense you can see it from space,” Derr told an online forum hosted by the Stratbase ADR Institute on the 5th anniversary of the Philippines’ landmark arbitral tribunal victory against China.

Showing satellite images in the last five years, Derr said effluent from Chinese ships are causing elevated concentrations of Chlorophyll-a leading to "a cascade of reef damage that will take decades to recover even with active mitigation."

“When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” she said.  “The damage to the reefs in the last five years is visible and dramatic.”

GMA News Online sought comment from the Chinese embassy in Manila but has yet to receive any.

At least 236 ships were spotted in the Union Banks or Pagkakaisa Reefs, which is within the West Philippine Sea as of June 17, Derr said.

The marine damage, Derr said, is in addition to the well-documented destruction by China of coral reef the harvest of endangered giant clams and artificial island-building.

Damaging these reefs, she warned, can lead to hunger crisis to collapse of commercial fishing in the South China Sea, which provides livelihood and food source to millions of people in the region.

“China, stop shitting on the Spratlys,” Derr said.

Over the years, China, which insisted on historical claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, has expanded its presence in the area, turning several former reefs into artificial islands with military facilities, runways and surface to air missiles.

China and five other governments - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan – are embroiled in years-long disputes over the South China Sea, particularly in its southern part, called the Spratlys.

In 2016, an international court in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China's sweeping claims over the resource-rich waters. China did not participate in the legal proceedings and refused to recognize the decision of the arbitral tribunal.

The Philippines renamed parts of the South China Sea that falls within its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as West Philippine Sea to assert ownership.

According to Derr, coral cover, a measure of the proportion of reef surface covered by live stony coral, has already declined an average of 67 percent in the last 10 to 15 years, while total fish stock is down by 66 to 75 percent in 20 years. 

“This is a catastrophe of epic proportions and we are close to the point of no return. This needs to stop immediately,” Derr said. “It is not a problem for one nation defending one economic zone.” —NB, GMA News