The Philippines is considering legal recourse against China for allegedly causing damage to coral reefs within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.
The foreign ministry of the Philippines stated on Thursday evening that they are currently waiting for evaluations from multiple organizations to determine the level of harm to the environment at Iroquois Reef in the Spratly islands. They will be taking direction from Solicitor General Menardo I. Guevarra.
According to a report from Rappler, Mr. Guevarra announced on Thursday that he is considering pursuing a second legal action with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague. However, no decision has been made yet regarding the specific legal action to be taken.
The Department of Foreign Affairs stated that the DFA is prepared to assist in this endeavor.
According to the statement, countries that enter the Philippines’ EEZ and maritime zones must also uphold the responsibility of safeguarding and conserving our marine ecosystem.
Attempting to initiate arbitration proceedings would be extremely contentious following the Philippines’ significant win in a 2016 legal battle against China. The ruling determined that Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea was unfounded according to international law.
On Friday, Mr. Guevarra did not promptly reply to a comment request. Iroquois Reef is near the Reed Bank, where the Philippines has aspirations to extract gas reserves in the future. This plan is made more complex by China’s assertion of ownership in the region.
China has consistently disregarded the 2016 ruling and has expressed annoyance at the continuous mentions of the case by Western nations. They have denied the recent allegations of damaging coral reefs.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, stated on Thursday, through its embassy in Manila, that they urge the relevant party in the Philippines to cease fabricating a political spectacle.
Earlier this week, the coast guard and armed forces of the Philippines reported significant harm to the marine environment and coral at Iroquois Reef. This was caused by 33 Chinese vessels that were anchored there in August and September.
The boats, often used for fishing, were referred to as “maritime militia” and were reported to be collecting coral. Coral from the South China Sea is utilized for building materials, medicine, and souvenirs.
China has established its ownership over the Spratlys by constructing artificial islands on submerged reefs, some of which have runways, hangars, radar, and missile technology. Other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines also have a presence on the islands in this archipelago, which have overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs).