Alarming, to say the least, that fishing banks in the West Philippine Sea will “collapse” and greatly impact the country’s food security.
This is the distressing precis raised by experts, which coincided with what Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela described as “severe damage” inflicted on the marine environment and coral reef in the seabed of Rozul Reef (also known as Iroquois Reef) and Escoda Shoal.
If indeed the area, which contributes between 27 percent and 30 percent of the country’s fish catch, is damaged the sustainability of nearby areas, like the inter-island waters of the Philippines to which the WPS is ecologically and biologically connected, will also suffer.
In a statement, Tarriela said “The surveys in Escoda Shoal revealed visible discoloration of its seabed, strongly indicating that deliberate activities may have been undertaken to modify the natural topography of its underwater terrain.”
Earlier on, BRP Sindangan and BRP CABRA held maritime patrols after 33 and 15 Chinese maritime militia vessels were spotted in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal, respectively, from August 9 to September 11.
According to Tarriela, the corals appeared possibly harvested, processed, and returned to the seabed.
“The presence of crushed corals strongly suggests a potential act of dumping, possibly involving the same dead corals that were previously processed and cleaned before being returned to the seabed,” he said.
If indeed, as Tarriela said, the marine ecosystem in the two WPS features appeared lifeless, with minimal to no signs of life, then there is need for the government to gear up and protect the area.
We need to listen to Tarriela who said the continued swarming of Chinese maritime militia vessels for alleged illegal and destructive fishing activities “may have directly caused the degradation and destruction of the marine environment in the WPS features.”
We cannot over-emphasize the importance of protecting and preserving our marine environment, which plays a critical role in sustaining marine life and supporting local communities.
Then we hear the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command saying there have been cases of massive coral harvesting along Rozul Reef, which is within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Something must be done at full tilt.