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Government urged: Assess damage in West Philippine Sea corals

MANILA, Philippines, September 18 ------ The fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas urged the government to conduct further damage assessment of the Rozul (Iroquois) Reef after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aired its suspicion that Chinese militia might have harvested the corals from that area of the West Philippine Sea.

Bobby Roldan, the group’s vice chairman for Luzon, said they are supporting the statement of Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, chief of the AFP Western Command, that the reef has been plundered of its corals, and the Chinese were likely behind it. Carlos has said the massive poaching of corals left a trail of destruction of marine resources in the area, which is near Palawan and within the country’s exclusive economic zone. “There is a need to identify if the swarmed area was subjected to coral harvesting, clam hunting, or any military activities that destroyed its vast coral reefs. We urge the Marcos administration to take this matter urgently by tapping marine scientists and other experts to extensively assess the damage and its possible long-term implications to the local fishery production,” Roldan said.

Roldan, who is also a fisherman from Zambales, said that the government should be spending for the strengthening of the local science and research industry, instead of pouring billions of pesos into the confidential and intelligence funds. “This will make us capable not only of assessing the environmental impacts of Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea, but also in exploring and utilizing our very own marine and mineral resources,” he added. He noted that an estimated 100 square miles of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea, particularly in the Spratlys, were destroyed due to China’s artificial island that hosts its military facilities. Citing the study of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, the fishers group said that it could take at least 20 years for a coral reef to recover, depending on the conservation measures in place.

The AFP said the Chinese may have begun clearing the reef of its corals in July when their ships swarmed around the land feature, about 150 nautical miles from the Palawan mainland. When the Chinese ships left Rozul Reef for Panganiban (Mischief) Reef weeks later, the AFP deployed Navy divers to conduct an underwater survey.



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