MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday alleged that the Chinese maritime militia harvested and later dumped "processed" coral reefs in some parts of the West Philippine Sea.
Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said they were "puzzled" over why China brought back the clean and crushed corals to Escoda Shoal.
"It does not explain kung bakit nila hinarvest and then idinump nila ulit," said Tarriela in a state-run program.
"That is another possibility — the reason they are harvesting corals is because 'yun nga, ginagamit nila na palamuti sa bahay nila. Nilalagay nila sa jewelry nila. Kung nagha-harvest sila, and then sa Escoda Shoal nagda-dump sila ng coral, it does not answer the question: Bakit nila hinarvest at ibinagsak nila sa karagatan," he added.
Tarriela said they were still evaluating the matter and sought the expertise of marine scientists at the University of the Philippines to examine samples of the crushed coral reefs.
The Philippine Coast Guard is also working on figuring out how and why the coral reefs died.
They are also gathering evidence on whether or not the Chinese maritime militia were behind the destruction of pristine marine environment, but stressed that they were the only entities present in the Escoda Shoal and Rozul Reef between August and September.
"We do not have any clear proof to pinpoint the Chinese maritime militia na sila ang may mga activities na ito na nakasira ng coral reefs natin," he said.
"But what is certain is that from Aug. 9 until Sept. 11, dito sa area na ito minonitor natin ang Chinese maritime militia vessels, they were there in that particular area and right after they left, that's the time we conducted underwater survey," he said.
"Kayo lang naman ang nandito (Chinese vessels) pero nung pinuntahan namin, nasira na. That is circumstantial," he said.
Authorities have yet to estimate the total environmental damage in the areas.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines over the weekend said it had seen the effects of coral harvesting in Rozul Reef that left the seabed barren. The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday backed the military's report, adding it saw similar ecological damage at Escoda Shoal.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the best legal minds and environmental lawyers would be tapped in relation to the incident.
“We will pursue these cases against China because apparent na eh, marami na po tayong ebidensya,” Remulla said.
Remulla said he would meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on the possible filing of cases against China.
“Tandaan natin, with or without a territorial dispute, the destruction of the environment is a sin against humanity kaya it’s a very good case to file in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
ABS-CBN News sought comment from the Chinese Embassy regarding the matter, but a representative has yet to respond as of this story's posting.
US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson has described the destruction as "troubling."
— With a report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News