MANILA — The Coast Guard on Sunday rejected China's claim that the Philippines is creating drama over the destruction of corals in parts of the West Philippine Sea, calling the harvesting and dumping of corals at Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal a serious crime.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson earlier in the week accused Manila of "creating a political drama from fiction" over the corals and said it should remove the grounded BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal to protect the marine ecosystem in the area.
"The destruction of corals goes far beyond drama," Commodore Jay Tarriela, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, said Sunday.
"It is a violent act and a serious crime against humanity."
The destruction of corals affects marine life and the livelihoods of fisherfolk dependent on them.
The effects of coral harvesting at Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal could last for decades.
"Stop making allegation that BRP Sierra Madre is polluting the water, but blame it to your numerous Chinese Maritime Militia swarming the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ)," Tarriela also said.
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro on Saturday called China a hypocrite over its remarks on environmental damage in the West Philippine Sea, adding these "will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese Government."
EXPERT: UNITED FRONT, LAWS NEEDED TO PROTECT WPS
In an interview on TeleRadyo Serbisyo earlier Sunday, Dr. Chester Cabalza of International Development and Security Cooperation, called on government to speed up passage of legislation that the Philippines can use to assert its rights in the West Philippine Sea.
Among those are the Maritime Zones bill, which will better define the Philippines' internal, archipelagic and territorial waters as well as its EEZ and continental shelf.
The Archipelagic Sea Lanes bill, pending at the committee level at the Senate with no counterpart at the House, will meanwhile lay down the rights and obligations of foreign ships and aircraft passing through the country's waters and airspace.
"The military and coast guard are not the solution sa pagtatanggol sa West Philippine Sea, bagkus, whole of nation, whole of government, multi-sectoral," Cabalza said.
(The military and coast guard are not the solution to defending the West Philippine Sea, instead, it must be whole of nation, whole of government and multi-sectoral.)
He said the Philippines needs good laws that will be enforced well while the security forces build up their capabilities.
"At the same time, yung mga pulitiko natin, dapat pareho yung iniisip nilang national interest, para ganun din mag-isip ang mga Pilipino, iisa lang ang ating iniisip," he said.
(At the same time, our politicians need to have a common concept of the national interest, so Filipinos will also have that concept.)
Earlier in the interview, Cabalza said that some politicians may have been influenced by China's economic and political influence.
"Yung mga (nasa) national government naman, nakita natin na mukhang pinagtatanggol pa si China sa mga sessions and so on," he said.
(Some in national government seem to be defending China in sessions and so on.)
"Nakita natin, yung impluwensya ng China mukhang napasok na yung political natin — because, of course, that is part of political warfare — it really happens, kasi 'yun yung way nila to persuade their interest to us."
(It seems China's influence has entered our politics.)