MANILA - The government is doing its job of protecting the environment in the West Philippine Sea, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Wednesday after a group of fishermen and lawyers asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of kalikasan.
"The coast guards are there and we have made diplomatic protests. I think we’re doing our job," he told ANC's Early Edition when asked for reaction to the recent petition before the high tribunal.
"The problem there is precisely there is conflict in the disputed area and if you do something drastic as in armed enforcement, it might provoke an armed conflict that might be too costly for us," he said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and a group of fisherfolk from Palawan and Zambales, in their petition for writ of kalikasan, accused high-ranking government officials of neglecting their duties under the law to protect the Ayungin (Second Thomas) and Panatag (Scarborough) shoals as well as the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.
Named as respondents in the petition were the environment, agriculture and justice departments, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the PNP Maritime Group.
Panelo said there is "no problem" in protecting the areas, which are owned by the Philippines, but the problem lies in areas where there are conflicting claims.
"We have already filed a diplomatic protest and I think that’s the best we can do right now...That's a start," he said.
He said the "only way" to prevent the Chinese from wreaking havoc in Scarborough is to "have coast guards there so that you can watch over the property."
Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef have been declared part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The arbitration ruling on maritime rights between Manila and Beijing said Filipino and Chinese fishermen both have "traditional fishing rights" in Panatag Shoal.