China coral reef damage 600x larger than Tubbataha damage

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2015 04:12 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2015 12:12 AM

MANILA - Government estimates that the damage on reef ecosystems that Chinese reclamation activities has caused in the West Philippine Sea is “600 times” larger than the one caused by the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis Perez described the damage as “massive.” He cited a study made by University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute professor emeritus and national scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez that pegged the estimated area of destroyed ecosystems at the Spratlys at 311 hectares.

“Papano natin sasabihin na malaki? Remember noong nakasagasa ang USS Guardian sa Tubbataha? That’s only half a hectare, 5,000 square meters. We’re talking about an area 6[00] times larger than that. So kung doon sa Tubbataha na kalahating ektarya, inapaalagay na natin na sa sobrang laki ng danyos, e lalo na doon sa area 600 times or even probably more, 700 times, that size,” Perez said.

Perez called on national and global action and awareness on the environmental damage that Chinese reclamation activities have created.

“That’s very unfortunate dahil sa ngayon po ang aksyon po ng ating pamahalaan ay nakatutok doon sa mapayapang pamamaraan ng pag-ayos ng gusot at ang ginagawa po natin ngayon is we continue to provide information to our people and we continue to call on the world that this is not just a Philippine issue. ‘Yung pagkasira po kasi ng bahura [reef] hindi lang po Pilipinas ang apektado ‘non, as explained by Dr. Gomez yesterday, dahil ‘yon pong mga semilya ng isda ‘yon po ay nagpupunta hindi lang po sa Pilipinas kundi sa buong West Philippine Sea at lumalabas pa po sa Sulu Sea at pumupunta pa po sa Pasipiko,” Perez said.

“So ‘yon po ang importanteng maipaalam, hindi lang po sa ating mga kababayan, kundi sa buong mundo na this is not a Philippine issue pagdating po sa pagtatabon ng bahura doon sa West Philippine Sea.”

Malacañang said there is no need for fishermen to secure permission to fish in Bajo de Masinloc, saying that it is part of Philippine territory despite Chinese claims. BFAR has advised fishermen to be careful when venturing to the disputed area.

“Our fishermen do not need permission to fish in our waters. As Attorney Perez said meron lang po tayong designated areas pero in general, wala po silang kailangan namang permiso mula sa atin dahil atin naman po ‘yun,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Perez said, “Ang prescription ho natin, doon sa mga lugar na mayroong conflict, ‘yung ating mga mangingisda ayaw po nating papuntahin doon—pinapaiwas po natin doon. So ‘yon po ang polisiya ng BFAR, at least as far as BFAR is concerned; pero kung saka-sakali na they come into danger, then, of course, it’s the responsibility of government to help them.”