South China Sea peace park: global signature drive on

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

A Filipino environment lawyer is leading a global petition to make the disputed South China Sea an Asia Marine Peace Park. The draft was submitted to the United Nations on Oct. 24, UN Day. A Peace Park can preserve the world’s most biodiverse coasts from war among naval powers.

Antonio Oposa pleads for world leaders to cooperate for maritime peace. “While some governments like to fight, most ordinary people like us only want to be safe, healthy and happy,” he told Gotcha.

Initial 150 signatories include prominent international earth advocates. Among them are Normandy, France Vice President Francois Priollaud, University of Sydney ecologist Ben Boer, Haub School environment law Prof. Nicholas Robinson, UN Special Rapporteur for Environment David Boyd and Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law Director Lye Lin Heng. Also Filipino musician Joey Ayala of Bagong Lumad, Palawan Rep. Edward Hagedorn and Sen. Cynthia Villar.

The Peace Park idea comes as tensions escalate between China versus Western and Asian powers over the South China Sea. China claims the entire SCS via a “nine-dash line” that trespasses the exclusive economic zones of neighbors Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. The United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan and India defend the small countries from China’s bullying.

Oposa filed the non-adversarial petition through Manila’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ariel Peñaranda. It was transmitted to Foreign Sec. Enrique Manalo for endorsement to UN members. Ordinary citizens will be asked to sign in Southeast Asia, China and worldwide.

China President Xi Jinping will be given a copy. As Chinese Communist Party chief, Xi declared last month to prioritize environment protection, promote green lifestyles and conserve nature as socialist objectives. Lower green gas output from slowed industrial pace grants China world prestige in heading a “new global green industrial revolution.”

“An Asia Marine Peace Park can also be a moral, political initiative for President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.,” Oposa quoted former chief justice Hilario Davide. “He can take it up with ASEAN leaders and President Xi as a show of friendship and good neighborliness.”

Manila in 2016 won international arbitration at The Hague against China’s occupation of eight reefs and poaching in the Philippine EEZ. Malaysia and Indonesia use that victory to assert their own EEZs; Vietnam contemplates similar arbitration against China under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A Peace Park can demilitarize the SCS, akin to the zone between the two Koreas, Iraq and Kuwait, and outer space. Similar too, to the 1961 treaty forbidding military occupation, nuclear waste dumping and environment degradation in Antarctica, which is solely for scientific exploration and study. In the 1990s, China’s first naval expedition to the ice continent machine-gunned thousands of penguins milling ashore.

Researches criticize China for environment ruin. Marine life has diminished 40 percent in Ecuador’s Galapagos EEZ due to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing at the edge by thousands of Chinese trawlers escorted by coast guards. With 80 percent of that South American country’s petroleum as payment, China in 2016 built a faulty hydro-electric plant beside active Reventador volcano.

With loans meant for pocketing by corrupt authoritarians, China extracts minerals by the million tons from Africa. West African countries complain against Chinese poaching in the Atlantic, 6,000 miles away.

China reclaimed seven Philippine reefs using ore extracted from Chinese-financed mines in Luzon and Mindanao. It also illegally extracts black sand from north Luzon beaches. Convening in Shanghai in 2013, Chinese oceanographers and maritime lawyers criticized the CCP’s “nine-dash line” but were silenced.

Scientists describe as the world’s most biodiverse in tropical marine life the archipelagic triangle comprising the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. An Asia Marine Peace Park can preserve that for world benefit.

Oposa’s signature drive targets hundreds of millions of youths worldwide. “The SCS is not ours alone, but also for future generations,“ he said. “For peace on earth, we must have peace with earth.”

Led by Oposa, Filipino youths got the Supreme Court to compel government to clean up Manila Bay.

The petition:

“People’s Petition to the United Nations for nations to unite. ‘We will have peace on Earth, when we have peace with the Earth.’

“Seas of Asia – There is a body of water west of the Pacific Ocean surrounded by some Asian countries. It is a crown jewel of the Earth’s natural heritage. This sea is the breeding ground and nursery of tropical fish. Surrounding states claim ownership of the sea. One wants all.

“How can we own something we did not create, that has been there long before we were born and will be there long after we are gone? This is causing serious tensions and dangers of violence.

“Bonus Pater-Familia – Nation-states are the good fathers of humankind. It is their duty to avoid tensions and violence for their people. As good fathers, states care for Mother Earth. They must cooperate to preserve this precious crown jewel of the Earth’s marine life.

“Cooperating, not competing – Rather than compete to take as much as we can from this sea, can we instead cooperate? Can we preserve this gem of Earth’s natural treasures? Can we do this in the spirit of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation? It will be good for the whole world, for this generation and for generations yet unborn.

“We humbly plead for the concerned states to transform their exclusive economic zones to be enchanting ecosystem zones. We respectfully petition the good United Nations to turn the international waters into a cooperatively-protected area – the Asia Marine Peace Park.”

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM). Follow me on Facebook:  https://tinyurl.com/2p93kxm9

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