Philippines urged to seek damages for China's destruction of Scarborough coral reefs

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
Philippines urged to seek damages for China's destruction of Scarborough coral reefs
Protesters shout slogans during a rally near the Chinese Consulate to protest the latest incident allegedly involving Chinese Coast Guard seizing fish caught by Philippine fishermen near a disputed shoal Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines. The Philippine president's office called Chinese seizures of fish caught by Philippine fishing boats near a disputed shoal unacceptable, and presented three fishermen Monday who described their experiences.
AP / Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should once again file a new case seeking for compensation following Chinese fishermen's destruction of coral reefs on Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said.

Carpio, part of the government's legal team in the arbitration case against China, noted that the Philippines was not awarded damages in the July 2016 ruling as the country did not ask for it.

"This time the Philippines should demand damages for the economic losses of Filipino fishermen," Carpio said Tuesday.

This statement came days after GMA News released a report showing Chinese coast guard personnel taking away the catch of Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal off the coast of Zambales.

The United Nations-backed tribunal ruled that Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc is the traditional fishing ground of Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

The arbitral tribunal also concluded that Beijing violated its commitment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to protect and preserve marine environment for failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting giant clams and destroying coral reefs in the process.

"We can also ask damages for the action of China in preventing our fishermen from fishing inside the lagoon of Scaroborough Shoal in violation of the 12 July 2016 arbitral ruling," Carpio said.

Carpio stressed that there will be no fish in Scaborough Shoal without coral reefs.

Filipino fishermen have confirmed that China is in control of the traditional fishing ground, which is well within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

In a Malacañang press briefing earlier this week, local fishermen narrated how Chinese coast guard personnel would give them noodles, cigarettes and water in exchange for their catch.

"I think it's still China," fisherman Romel Cejuela said in Filipino when asked who he thinks is in control of the shoal.

China, meanwhile, insisted that it has made "appropriate arrangement" for Filipino fishermen to access the area out of "goodwill."

"The Chinese coast guards have been safeguarding peace, order and tranquility in relevant waters and offered humanitarian aids to Philippine fishermen for many times. They have always acted in accordance with the law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press briefing Monday.

The Chinese government is looking into the incident reported by Philippine media, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

"If what the Philippine side claimed is true, I believe relevant Chinese departments will handle that in a serious manner," Geng said.

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