MANILA, Philippines – Wearing goggles and snorkels, members of Akbayan party list stormed the Chinese Consular Office on Wednesday, April 10, to protest the presence of a Chinese commercial fishing vessel in Tubbataha Reef, a Unesco World Heritage site.
“This is obviously being tolerated, if not being spearheaded, by the Chinese government,” Akbayan Rep Walden Bello said.
Bello said the incident is reminiscent of the stand-off between Chinese and Philippine authorities in Panatag Shoal, when local enforcers attempted to arrest Chinese marine poachers. He attributed the presence of these violators to the regional conflict with China.
“If we allow them to get away scot-free from their violations then we are actually inviting them to commit more violations in the future,” he added.
The group also called on the Philippine government to punish the Chinese poachers and demand reparations for any damages.
With only more than a week after salvage teams removed from Tubbataha the USS Guardian, which was stuck in the area for more than 10 weeks, Akbayan stressed that the government has “weak security” when it comes to protecting the country’s “marine areas.”
“Our previous experience with the grounding of the US Navy’s USS Guardian in Tubbataha and this current incident with the Chinese fishing vessel should serve as an impetus for government to secure the waters within our archipelago,” Bello said.
The group urged the government to set up measures to safeguard marine protected areas, which include the Tubbataha Reefs. -Rappler.com
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