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PH mulls cases vs China, Vietnam over alleged cyanide fishing

The Philippines may file cases against China and Vietnam amid allegations of cyanide fishing at the Bajo de Masinloc, National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said Monday.

Malaya added that the government would investigate reports of cyanide use. They would forward the findings to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for the possible filing of cases before a tribunal.

“We will investigate this report, and if validated puwede natin itong i-forward sa DOJ at OSG because sila po ngayon ang gumagawa ng mga hakbang para mapalakas iyong pinaplano nating pagsasampa ng kaso kung saan mang tribunal for environmental degradation,” he said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview.

(We will investigate this report, and if validated, we can forward it to the DOJ and the OSG because they are now taking steps to strengthen our planned filing of cases in any tribunal for environmental degradation.)

Over the weekend, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said their recent deployments at the Bajo de Masinloc found the lagoon heavily damaged, possibly due to cyanide fishing by Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

Meanwhile, Malaya said the National Security Council (NSC), in which he also serves as assistant director general, was alarmed by the reported cyanide use at the Bajo de Masinloc.

“But, we have to be careful also. So we have to validate and investigate,” he explained.

"So ang sabi namin sa BFAR, 'Complete the documentation that you have taken, iyong mga ebidensiya at mga affidavits na makukuha natin. Submit your post-mission report to the NTF WPS.'”

(So we told the BFAR, "Complete the documentation you have taken, the evidence and affidavits we can get. Submit your post-mission report to the NTF WPS.")

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it would also investigate the alleged cyanide fishing. 

“The PCG is currently coordinating with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and, of course, with the marine scientists to look into the report of cyanide fishing that allegedly destroyed the marine environment in Bajo de Masinloc. Right now, that is our collective action,” Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG spokesperson for the WPS, said in Raffy Tima’s “24 Oras” report on Tuesday. 

“The UP Marine Science Institute will be conducting a forum for them to disclose to the public the result of their findings in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal,” Tarriela added. 

For its part, China's Foreign Ministry said that Philippine allegations that Chinese fishermen had been using cyanide were sheer fabrication.

While emphasizing that China had sovereignty over "Huangyan Dao" and its adjacent waters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told the Global Times that the "Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection of eco-environment and conservation of fishing resources and resolutely fights against fishing activities that violate laws and regulations."

Similarly, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said that the allegations against Chinese fishermen were baseless.

"Such continuous disinformation has led up to nothing but the exacerbation of maritime tensions and destabilization of bilateral relations," added the embassy.

"We urge the relevant Philippine agencies to handle maritime issues with all seriousness and meet the Chinese side halfway in safeguarding bilateral relations as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea."

According to the OSG, serious factual verification is needed before cases may be filed against the alleged perpetrators before the international court.  — with Sundy Locus/DVM/VBL, GMA Integrated News