Philippines Accuses China Of Illegal Coral Harvesting In The West Philippine Sea

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (also known as the AFP) raised alarms over what they suspect to be the illegal harvesting of corals in Rozul Reef in the waters of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, AFP’s Western Command chief, disclosed in a press meeting on 16 September that they would increase military presence in the Philippines owing to the sudden resurgence of China’s vessels swarming the area and the huge harvesting of the corals.

Coral Reef
Representation Image

For a considerable period, there was no swarming due to their presence there, he mentioned.

He added that they aim to maintain 100%, 365 days each year. However, due to the weather and limited resources, Carlos specified that the troops must return to the port to refuel and rest.

Carlos raised concerns over the suspected unlawful harvesting of corals in the zone since this violates the Philippines’ sovereign rights, as the nation has its rightful claim to resources within its own exclusive economic zone based in the West Philippine Sea.

When they were gone, the country sent out its divers to conduct an underwater survey and found no corals were left. The corals were destroyed, and there was debris), he explained.

The Wescom chief mentioned that while they were not asserting that China’s vessels were harvesting the corals, there were specific indications that suggested the occurrence of these activities.

That is mainly why it is alarming since, as far as the Western Command is concerned, they must safeguard the sovereign rights of the Filipinos, and they would be the ones who would be enjoying resources in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), he stated.

Carlos mentioned that the AFP plans to deploy more stringent assets and personnel to the West Philippines Sea to address this issue, even though he did not state how many more personnel would be deployed as extra manpower.

China has kept harassing and blocking vessels on its resupply missions to the Ayungin Shoal. The incidents took the spotlight particularly in August, given the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG’s) efforts to publicize the harassment of China on Philippine vessels, including bringing media to resupply missions or posting footage from such missions.

In August, a resupply mission did not get through after China’s Coast Guard and its maritime militia succeeded in blocking, harassing, and then using water cannons against the PCG and AFP-commissioned vessels. The Philippines tried in late August as well as in September. While the missions were unsuccessful, the Philippine boats encountered harassment by the Chinese vessels.

Ayungin Shoal is in the Philippines’ EEZ, per a ruling in 2016. China refused to acknowledge that ruling and released a 2023 version of its Standard Map, which has a 10-dash line encompassing the South China Sea.


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