Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chinese reclamation damage to Philippine coral reefs 600X larger than Tubbataha's - BFAR

Chinese reclamation damage to Philippine coral reefs 600X larger than Tubbataha's - BFAR

The Tubbataha Reef damage, after the USS Guardian ran aground on it two years ago. Imagine, said BFAR Director Asis Perez, this kind of damage multiplied "600-700 times" -- and that's the damage to Philippine marine resources by China's ongoing illegal, unbridled reclamation in the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea. PHOTO FROM THE AFP WESTERN COMMAND
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA – The damage to the coral reefs caused by the Chinese reclamation in the West Philippine Sea is 600 times larger than the damage brought by the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef, according to estimates by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). 

In a media briefing in Malacanang on Friday, BFAR Director Asis Perez said he based his estimate on the study made by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) which revealed that China’s reclamation activities particularly in the Burgos and Kagitingan Reefs have already reached an estimated area of 311 hectares.

”The USS Guardian in Tubbataha, that’s only half a hectare – 5,000 square meters. We’re talking about an area six hundred or even probably more, 700 times larger than that size,” Perez said, referring to the incident two years ago when the US Navy's mine sweeper, sailing from Subic, strayed into the Tubbattaha - a UNESCO world heritage site - and destroyed coral reefs that scientists said would take thousands of years to re-grow. The US paid P87 million for the damage.

”So that’s how you – I think that’s the perspective that we’re using why we said its massive,” he added, by way of explaining the basis for estimates provided earlier.

In the UPMSI study, National Scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez estimated a total of $108.9 million of annual economic losses to countries around the South China Sea based on the Spratlys' coral reef ecosystem services to human well-being amounting to $350,000 per hectare each year.

”In fish product per se, the effect of the coral degradation is to the fish fingerlings, fish larvae and fish sanctuary,” Perez said.

Aside from the construction of military bases in the West Philippine Sea, poaching of giant clam shells, corals and other marine species by Chinese fishing vessels has repeatedly caused damage to the area’s ecological balance, the UPMSI had warned.

Perez said the unabated destruction of coral reefs affects at least 9 fishing municipalities along the Philippines’ western seaboard.

”That is equivalent to more than 12,000 people who directly rely on fishing for income. Total volume of catch in the West Philippine Sea is approximately 10.9 percent of the country’s total marine catch which is at 2.14 million metric tons,” Perez said in a press statement distributed to members of the Malacanang Press Corps.

”We urge China to respect its international commitments and be mindful of millions of people not only in the Philippines who depend on these very important marine resources, “ Perez said.

Perez said the West Philippine Sea problem is not a simple territorial disputes “but there is actually a huge environmental impact that will affect not just us, but another body of people.”

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