Philippines-China relations

Philippines, China share goal of protecting West PH Sea ecosystem – DENR

Dwight de Leon
After citing China's marine destruction in the West Philippine Sea, an environment official says collaborating in maritime research is still possible

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that although China is to blame for excessive marine destruction in the West Philippine Sea, it was still possible to collaborate with Beijing in maritime research in the disputed waterway.

During a virtual briefing Friday, March 19, with the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), DENR Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta-Teh said both countries shared the end goal of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem.

“The environment, the organisms, and the ecosystems do not recognize boundaries, territorial disputes and maritime entitlements,” Teh said.

“We can still discuss with them even in those areas where there are disputes. In fact, iyon ang area na pwede nating i-enhance (that’s an area which we can enhance) and strengthen collaboration and understanding,” Teh added.

To date, the Philippines has yet to conduct an actual joint maritime scientific research with China. But Teh said it continued to engage China by sharing expertise and capacity development programs.

Also in the briefing, Teh talked about China’s violations of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, as affirmed by the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. That groundbreaking ruling invalidated China’s sweeping claim of almost the whole South China Sea using its illusory 9-dash line principle.

She pointed out the marine destruction caused by China’s wanton harvesting of giant clams.

When asked whether Manila has told Beijing to compensate for the marine destruction it caused, Teh said the Philippines was still documenting the country’s resources to determine how much it cost.

Despite the pandemic, China has continued building structures in the West Philippine Sea.

In February, US-based firm Simularity released images showing new developments on Mischief Reef, such as the construction of what appeared to be an antenna mount structure.

Maritime research

The briefing also discussed the Philippine efforts to invest in maritime research.

Currently, the Philippines only has 5 research vessels. This was a far cry from Britain which 52 owned despite having a relatively similar landmass and number of islands.

Based on the long-term sustainability plan of the National Academic Research Fleet, the Philippines eyes to purchase at least 4 vessels until 2024. –

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.