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PH new suit vs. China nearly done

Department of Justice
Rey E. Requejo, Maricel Cruz & Ratziel San Juan

Case focuses on environmental damage in WPS

The environmental case the Philippine government intends to file against China over the maritime destruction in the West Philippine Sea may be completed “in a few weeks,” the Department of Justice on Thursday said.

“We are confident that in a few weeks, the complaint and the attached evidence will be completed. Hopefully with the help of the Solicitor General, we will be able to file an environmental case against China,” Justice Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Mico Clavano IV said.

The National Security Council earlier said the evidence includes images of how Chinese activities destroyed the already fragile marine environment in Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla first broached the idea of filing a case against China in September 2023 after the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command confirmed there were cases of massive coral harvesting along Rozul (Iroquois) Reef in the WPS.

House leaders threw their support behind the plan to file a new case against China.

“I guess we are already tired [of] the diplomatic approach, asking China to stop this and stop that… This is a positive development on the part of the administration to collect pieces of evidence so that we can file a case against China,” Assistant Majority Leader and Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Jil Bongalon said

Deputy Majority Leader and PBA Party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles said the maritime destruction in the WPS “cannot be taken lightly.”

Marine scientists at the University of the Philippines Diliman – College of Science (UPD-CS) have recommended the long-term monitoring of resources at the West Philippine Sea.

The college recently facilitated a public forum where UP professors discussed the geopolitical and ecological situation in the WPS, promoting strategies that scientists and researchers can use to protect and preserve the area’s marine resources.

UPD-CS Marine Science Institute (MSI) Director Dr. Laura David listed the following threats to the West Philippine Sea: climate change, overfishing, oil spills, land use, plastics, and reclamation of islands.

David said the number of living coral reefs declined as the number of occupations rose.

Dr. Fernando Siringan, MSI professor and National Academy of Science and Technology academician, likewise encouraged long-term monitoring activities involving marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the WPS region.

Earlier, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio urged the Philippine government to sue China anew over the destruction of Escoda Shoal and Rozul Reef, which he said are within the Philippines’ EEZ.

The retired SC magistrate made the call after the Philippine Coast Guard accused China of building an artificial island in Escoda Shoal. It said the dumping of crushed corals near the shoal may be in preparation for China’s reclamation activities.

Former Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza also supported the government’s to file an environmental damage suit against China.

Jardeleza was the solicitor general and acted as the agent of the Philippines when the case against China was filed and eventually won in 2016 with the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, Netherlands.

“For the last nine years, China continues to encroach on our exclusive economic zone. In doing so, this hegemon has acted with impunity, destroying thousands of hectares of irreplaceable marine life which took nature eons to create, thereby depriving many of our fishermen and their families of their livelihood,” Jardeleza said.

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