Chinese poaching giant clams near Pag-asa island

Exclusive report by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2014 01:28 AM | Updated as of May 24 2014 09:28 AM

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is studying its options after watching ABS-CBN News' footage of Chinese fishermen taking giant clams from disputed waters.

An ABS-CBN News team spotted the Chinese fishing boats near Pag-asa island late last month.

The boats were full of giant clams harvested from the disputed South China Sea, or what Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

Filipino fishermen said they see the Chinese boats every day.

"Maghapon talaga sila. Alas sais naghuhukay na sila, naghahanap na sila bahay ng taklobo. Sa maghapon ang trabaho nila mag-ipon. Pag ganitong hapon, ikaklarga na nila, ililipat sa barko," said local fisherman Ronie Cojamco.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it takes around 50 years before giant clams grow to a large size.

The giant clam is classified as an endangered species and should not be harvested or sold.

"Iyung ganyan kalalaki, malamang nakaembed na yan sa coral reef. So para makuha mo sila, malamang in the process of extracting them, nagbabasag ka ng mga corals natin na hindi rin maganda," said DENR official Theresa Mundita Lim.

The DFA also expressed alarm over the number of Chinese vessels in the area and the number of giant clams harvested.

The vessels were less than 2 kilometers away from Pag-asa island, which the Philippines claims as its territory.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) also states that while territorial disputes have yet to be resolved, natural resources in the disputed waters cannot be exploited or destroyed.

"Iyung nakita natin ay malinaw na pagsira sa kalikasan at biodiversity ng bansa, at para sa DFA nakakabahala yan. Mag-uusap kami kung ano ang pwedeng gawin, dahil mukhang paglabag na naman ito sa UNCLOS," said DFA spokesperson Charles Jose.

Beijing has said that it does not recognize the arbitration case filed by Manila before a UN tribunal.

While that case is pending, the destruction of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea also appears unabated. - with ANC