Climate and Environment

Fishers say next case vs China should focus on reparations for WPS damage

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Fishers say next case vs China should focus on reparations for WPS damage
A journalist takes a photo of a presentation by the Philippine Coast Guard showing alleged Chinese activities in Scarborough Shoal, during a press conference in Manila on May 20, 2024.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — A fisherfolk group has urged that the next legal action against China seek reparations for the destruction of the marine environment and resources in the West Philippine Sea following reports of giant clam harvesting in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

“The next legal case should primarily compel China to pay remuneration for the damaged reefs caused by its aggression, plunder, and occupation of sea features in our territorial waters,” said Ronnel Arambulo, national vice chairperson of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA).

The fishers’ group made the call after National Security Council spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that there is growing support for a new legal action against China over environmental damage, including coral reef destruction and giant clam harvesting. 

The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday reported that Chinese fishermen have been illegally harvesting giant clams, sea turtles, stingrays, and other marine species in Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, since 2016. 

Malaya also called on China to open up Panatag Shoal to international inspection to determine the situation in the area. 

Panatag Shoal, located about 240 kilometers west of Luzon, has long been a fishing ground utilized by generations of Filipino fishers. Beijing seized the atoll in 2012 after a standoff with Philippine vessels.

PAMALAKAYA’s Arambulo said China could be liable for P223.2 billion for the destruction of coral reefs in Panatag Shoal and Kalayaan Islands.

Based on PAMALAKAYA’s assessment, China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea hurt the livelihood of around 627,000 fishers in coastal provinces like Ilocos, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro, Batangas and Palawan. 

It added that fishers in Zambales have been losing 70% of their daily incomes since Beijing seized Panatag Shoal. 

China asserts sweeping claims over the South China Sea, brushing off rival claims by the Philippines and other countries, and dismissing an international ruling rejecting its territorial basis.

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