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China Accuses Philippine Warships of Causing Severe Damage to Reef Ecosystem in South China Sea

Published On Tue, 09 Jul 2024
Zayn Khan
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China asserted on July 8 that Philippine warships illegally grounded at the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea have caused significant damage to the coral reef ecosystem in the area, amidst ongoing territorial disputes between the two nations. In a detailed report by China's Ministry of Natural Resources, it stated that Philippine warships have been unlawfully beached around Second Thomas Shoal near the Nansha Islands for an extended period, resulting in severe harm to the diversity, stability, and sustainability of the reef ecosystem.
The Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy did not immediately respond to China's assertions or the report. The disputes primarily involve the Spratly Islands, referred to as the Nansha Islands by China, along with the Second Thomas Shoal and Sabina Shoal. These small islands are situated within the expansive South China Sea, a critical conduit for over US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in annual maritime trade.
Since deliberately grounding a rusty, aging military transport ship at the Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to reinforce its maritime claims, the Philippines has stationed soldiers aboard. The report recommended that the Philippines remove the alleged illegally beached warships to mitigate pollution sources and prevent further sustained and cumulative harm to the coral reef ecosystem.
China claims the majority of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory and has rejected a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that deemed its expansive maritime claims legally unfounded. Both nations have accused each other of causing coral reef damage through the operations of ships and fishing vessels at various atolls.
According to China's report, the coverage of reef-building corals at the Second Thomas Shoal reef platform declined by approximately 38.2 percent from 2011 to 2024. In 2023, the Philippines announced it was considering legal options against China, alleging destruction of coral reefs within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
Over the weekend, the Philippines reported that China's largest coastguard vessel had anchored within Manila's exclusive economic zone in the waterway, a move perceived as intimidation. Despite ongoing tensions, both countries agreed last week on the necessity to "restore trust" and "rebuild confidence" to better manage maritime disputes.
Disclaimer: This image is taken from Reuters.
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