Locsin: We had no idea there were clams in Scarborough

Locsin: We had no idea there were clams in Scarborough
This photo dated February 2016 shows a reef flat approximately 1.5 nautical miles away from Pag-asa Island destroyed by Chinese clam harvesters.
AMTI / John McManus

MANILA, Philippines — Following his previous remarks that China should pay for the giant clams they harvested from Scarborough Shoal, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. claimed that the Philippines was not aware of the existence of the clams.

In a tweet earlier this week, the Philippines' top diplomat said he will not be "going down in history as a clam defender."

Twitter user @JGDelica responded to Locsin's tweet, pointing out that the Philippine government is "letting endangered species be poached under our noses," which the DFA chief denied.

"No, that's not true. We had no idea there were clams there and really I will not let this country go down to war or lose a useful economic partner just over environmental concerns for a world I care nothing about," Locsin said.

In a separate tweet, Locsin said the Philippines had protested China's extraction of giant clams on Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA chief stressed that he refused to "get into scuba gear and wrap my arms around clams."

In response to Locsin, Gregory Poling, director of think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), said Chinese poachers have been destorying coral reef while harvesting clams from the shoal.

Poling also warned that these activities affect the livelihoods and food security of coastal communities, including the Philippines.

"They've destroyed over 40,000 acres of reef via clam harvesting > That's more than 10[times] as much as their island building killed," Poling said on Twitter.

In September 2017, AMTI released a report which found that fishing resources in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, is "in danger of collapse."

According to the think tank, more than half of fishing vessels in the world operate in the South China Sea, many of which are illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The AMTI also suggested that China and Southeast Asian countries should coordinate in reintroducing giant clams and other endangered species to depopulate reefs in the South China Sea.

"Each claimant will be responsible for planting clams and reintroducing other species on reefs it currently occupies. Eventually, unoccupied reefs should be repopulated by multinational civilian teams, though in the short- and medium-term priority should be given to reefs near occupied features as they will be much easier to protect from poachers," it said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray






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