The Hague — Adding a new dimension to the West Philippine Sea case being heard before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Philippine team asserted the country’s environmental and fishing rights while accusing its giant neighbor of “irreversibly damaging” the region’s eco-system with its massive reclamation activities.
As reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the second day of oral arguments involved not territorial but ecological issues.
“Professor Alan Boyle presented to the tribunal arguments regarding the strength of the Philippines’ environmental and fishing claims against China,” she said.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario appealed to the tribunal to hear the case due to the massive negative environmental impact China’s activities have wreaked on the Philippines.
“China has irreversibly damaged the regional marine environment, in breach of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), by its destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ EEZ, by its destructive and hazardous fishing practices, and by its harvesting of endangered species,” he said.
According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles de Jose, the environmental aspect was not originally included by the Philippines when submitted its arbitration case to the UN in 2013.
“The reclamation activities came immediately after we filed the arbitration case,” he explained.
Marine experts estimate the damage brought on by China’s island-building to be at around $100 million annually, with the Philippines suffering the bulk of the losses in fish stocks and other vital natural resources.
China, the Philippines, and several other Southeast Asian countries are currently embroiled in a dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea which is also one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.
The Asian giant has repeatedly refused to recognize the international arbitration, instead preferring to resolve the dispute via two-way talks.