“The naval forces of China and other big economic interests should immediately pull out of the West Philippine Sea.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Environmentalists led by the group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) today protested at the Chinese consulate in Makati, to condemn the “bullying and other offenses” of the Chinese military forces within Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“The naval forces of China and other big economic interests should immediately pull out of the West Philippine Sea, and the contesting parties should come up with a diplomatic solution that ensures the respect of national sovereignty and ecological integrity,” Kalikasan national coordinator Clemente Bautista.
“The Chinese government, in its aspiration to lord over the Asian region, is using its military might to intimidate its Asian neighbors like Philippines and Vietnam,” he said. Bautista added that the former socialist republic “transgresses national sovereignty, and causes marine degradation and human rights violations.”
The protesters also called on the Aquino government to “take a cue from people’s calls to start applying pressure” on China, which they said had taken advantage of the Philippines’ “weak military and governance.”
Anakpawis Party-list Representative Fernando Hicap had called on the government to revoke its deals with Chinese-owned mining and power companies in the country to pressure China to stop its aggression in the disputed waters.
In their protest, the green activists “bombarded” the Chinese flag with water guns, a symbolic retaliation to complaints by Filipino fishermen who were chased with water cannons by Chinese vessels within Philippine waters.
China has been aggressively carrying out reclamation, dredging and construction in shoals and reefs in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea, and including those within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, particularly in the Panatag shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc.
Chinese military structures have risen in Fiery Cross Reef, and Johnson South Reef and other reefs and shoals in the Kalayaan group of Islands (Spratlys Islands).
“China’s military build-up in the Spratlys Islands is an ecological time bomb,” Bautista said. He said that the reclamation and military base construction by the Chinese are “wreaking havoc to the region’s marine ecology.”
The environmentalist group said the Spratlys group of islands, which is contiguous to Tubbataha Reef and part of the great Coral Triangle, is “one of the most preserved and biodiverse reefs in the world.”
Bautista said the Coral Triangle is “the center of marine biodiversity in the world,” with more than 120 million people dependent on its marine resources for food and livelihood.
“It seems both Chinese and Philippine authorities are blind to their inter-generational responsibility to save West Ph Sea from further degradation,” he said. Bautista said citizens should demand that their governments “demilitarize the contested waters and uphold a diplomatic solution.”