Following China’s claim to parts of the West Philippine Sea, Chinese fishermen have been long reported of exploiting the natural resources of the Philippine waters. There are even reports that Chinese fishermen and coast guards are harassing Filipino fishermen by taking their catches and disallowing them to enter the fishing grounds. There is a long list of China’s misconduct in the West Philippine Sea including coral reef damage and marine habitat reclamation. Adding to that list is the recent report that Chinese fishermen are extracting Giant Clams in Scarborough Shoal, a part of the West of the Philippine Sea. This caused for very loud distress and rage in the Philippines due to several interconnecting issues.
Illegal wildlife trade
All nine (9) species of Giant Clams (known as Taklobo in the Philippines) are included in Appendix II of CITES. And according to the Philippine law as stated in Republic Act No. 10654, “it is unlawful to fish, take, gather, sell, purchase, possess, transport, export, or ship out aquatic species listed in CITES Appendices II and III if scientific assessments show that the population of the species in the wild cannot remain viable under pressure of collection and trade”.
It has been reported that coral reefs were destroyed intentionally in order to extract the Giant Clam shells. The coral reefs are the breeding ground of many organisms thus its destruction will cause for the decline of aquatic wildlife population and similarly to marine biodiversity. It would take decades or centuries in order for these coral reefs to recover to their original state. And considering that climate change is already taking place, these coral reefs may take even longer to recover.
Disrespect to the Philippines’ sovereignty
The Scarborough Shoal, where the Giant Clam shells were taken, is part of the West Philippines Seas. The mere entry of the Chinese fishermen into Philippine waters without the necessary permits or clearances is already a violation of international treaties. And it is even a greater violation of extorting and destroying the natural resources that are within the Philippine territory.
The People’s Republic of China has been long claiming the West Philippine Seas as its own territory based on an “old map”. But the Philippines had won the conflict of the territorial dispute in 2016 by using the grounds of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which stated therein that a nation’s exclusive economic zone is within 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Violation of human rights
The people who are most affected by the issue are the local fisherfolks of the Philippines. They primarily rely on fish catches as their source of income and for food sustenance. But now that the territorial water has been claimed by the foreigners, their right on their foundation of living has been abused and has been taken away. More to that, the incessant destruction of marine habitats had precedented for the decrease of fish catches.
The shells of Giant Clam are highly valued because of its multiple utilizations from household displays to jewelry. In China, the translucent white shells of giant clams, dubbed as the “jade of the sea”, is used as an alternative to ivory from elephant tusks. The loss of these articles from the Philippines’ possession is a certain loss to its natural wealth.
Also eventually, there will be a decline in the revenue of the country or of the affected regions primarily because of the decline of fish populations brought about by the destruction of the coral reefs.
The government’s lenient actions
Foreign exploitations of parts of the Philippine waters have been long happening. But now, this has become worst due to ineffective or lenient actions from the existing government of the Philippines. As of to date, the country’s lead agency for aquatic resources (that is the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) has been silent on the issue and the Philippines’ central government is somewhat disconcerted because of some government officials’ peeving statements regarding the issue.
Adding to this issue is that parts of the West Philippine Seas have been used as a “collateral” by the seated government in case the country was not able to pay its loan to the People’s Republic of China. The financial loan is now being used to fund the government’s “Build, Build, Build” project whose purpose is to construct different infrastructures in the country. One of these infrastructures is the Kaliwa Dam that has been scouring more issues because it has ignored laws relating to the environment and the indigenous people. |
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