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Philippines urges China: Scrutinize South China Sea shoal

Photo : Reuters

MANILA: The Philippines issued a bold challenge to China on Monday, urging Beijing to allow international scrutiny of Scarborough Shoal amid allegations of environmental destruction by Chinese activities. Tensions have escalated in the South China Sea between Manila and Beijing, with the Philippines accusing China of aggressive maneuvers and obstructing access to disputed shoals and reefs.

The Scarborough Shoal, seized by China in 2012, has been a focal point of contention. Its control featured prominently in the Philippines' case at a Hague arbitration tribunal, which in 2016 invalidated Beijing's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

"We are deeply concerned about the ongoing situation," emphasized Philippine National Security spokesperson Jonathan Malaya during a press briefing. There's a growing consensus within the government about the necessity of taking legal action against China for the degradation of coral reefs and the illegal harvesting of endangered marine species in the South China Sea.

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Photographic evidence provided by the Philippine coast guard from 2018 to 2019 revealed Chinese fishermen engaging in unauthorized activities, including the harvesting of giant clams, stingrays, topshells, and sea turtles, severely impacting the marine ecosystem of Scarborough Shoal.

"This is clear evidence of disregard for environmental conservation. It reflects a lack of concern for the marine environment," remarked Jay Tarriela, spokesperson for the coast guard, at Monday's conference.

Addressing China directly, Malaya emphasized the need for transparency: "If you stand by your actions, allow international scrutiny of Scarborough Shoal by a neutral third party." He denounced China's recent regulations, permitting the use of force against foreign vessels, as a violation of international law and a coercive tactic to intimidate neighboring countries.

China's foreign ministry responded, stating that there's no cause for concern if no illegal activities are occurring. However, Malaya reiterated that China's authority doesn't extend to the high seas and dismissed Beijing's regulations as attempts at intimidation.

"The Philippines will not yield to intimidation or coercion by the Chinese Coast Guard. We remain resolute in upholding our rights," affirmed Malaya, signaling Manila's commitment to defending its sovereignty and environmental interests in the South China Sea.

May 20, 2024 4:53 p.m. 483

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