Legal action vs China over cyanide use in WPS at Marcos' discretion — SolGen

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Legal action vs China over cyanide use in WPS at Marcos' discretion � SolGen
This photo shows an aerial view of Philippine fishing boats within the vicinity of over Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on Feb. 16, 2024.
AFP / Jam Sta Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The decision to file environmental charges against China rests with the president, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday.

Guevarra made the statement during an interview with reporters, responding to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s announcement of the government's consideration of filing a case against China, pending confirmation of cyanide use in fishing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“The OSG’s task is to present legal options to the Philippine government, but the decision to commence any legal action lies with the president in consultation with the National Task Force on the WPS,” Guevarra said. 

The government's top lawyer emphasized that the allegations must be verified before the Philippines can proceed with filing charges.

“A possible complaint for environmental damage is one of these options. The recent report on the use of cyanide off Scarborough shoal, serious as it is, needs careful factual verification,” he said.

If China's actions in the West Philippine Sea are confirmed, Guevarra stated that the OSG would work closely with other relevant agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Security Council (NSC), and members of the National Task Force on the WPS to develop a legal course of action.

“Any legal action must be supported by strong, solid and competent evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of any international tribunal,” Guevarra said.

The DOJ, meanwhile, said that it has initiated a study into legal remedies by gathering evidence and collaborating with marine scientists to assess the environmental and economic impacts of China's alleged action. 

"The ecosystems are vital not only for marine biodiversity but also for the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk," DOJ's Wednesday press release read, quoting Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla. 

On Tuesday, the NSC announced its investigation into the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources' report that Chinese fishermen deliberately used cyanide to disrupt the fishing grounds, preventing Filipino fishermen from operating in the area.

The report was denied by the Chinese foreign ministry, calling the alleged use of cyanide by Chinese fishers as a “sheer fabrication.” 

Cyanide fishing is an environmentally harmful practice involving the spraying or release of toxic chemicals onto coral reefs to stun fish, facilitating their easier capture.

The chemical also damages and kills coral reefs. — with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico

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