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PH researchers hurt after China chopper hovers low over Sandy Cay

Several Filipino marine scientists were injured after they were reportedly harassed by a Chinese Navy (CN) helicopter at Sandy Cay in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The researchers from the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Biology and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) traveled to Sandy Cay last week to record its biodiversity and help ensure food security, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

However, JP Soriano and Chino Gaston reported Tuesday on “24 Oras” that a CN helicopter reportedly flew low over the coalescing sand bars and the scientists for ten minutes.

The downwash from the helicopter scattered dead corals, causing cuts and scratches on the Filipino researchers.

“Our approach includes not just the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, or even the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” said Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG Spokesperson for the WPS.

“We also combine with the academe, particularly those who are real authorities when it comes to science,” Tarriela added.

The researchers finished taking coral samples in the area and based on their initial observations, they presumed that the dead corals may have been deposited in the area for reclamation purposes.

They likewise said there were no large fish around Sandy Cay, suggesting possible over-fishing.

“I think that the future of these islands will have a significant effect on all the fisheries in the WPS, up to north or even in the Visayan sea,” said UP Marine Biologist Dr. Jonathan Anticamara.

“We need this kind of study. But for me it will be a most positive story for the Philippines if in the next foreseeable years or immediately from here onward there will be consistent monitoring, but there will be actions to manage these resources,” Anticamara said.

The PCG earlier said the scientists would assess Sandy Cay 1, 2, 3, and 4. It was the first time marine research was conducted in the area in the WPS.

In September 2023, dead and crushed corals were found in Sandy Cay 2. Experts said this was a common Chinese procedure before starting reclamation activities. — Sundy Mae Locus/DVM, GMA Integrated News