THE Supreme Court was asked yesterday to compel the government to protect disputed shoals in the West Philippine Sea where Chinese fishermen have reportedly been harvesting marine resources.
In a 34-page petition filed through the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a group of fishermen from Palawan and Zambales asked the SC to issue a writ of Kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus ordering the government to protect, preserve and rehabilitate the environment in Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef.
They sought relief from the SC against what they called “neglect of performance of the duties of the government in violation of environmental laws resulting in environmental destruction of damage in the shoals.”
They said the government failed to act on activities of Chinese fishermen in the disputed areas, which violate the country’s environmental laws.
“Chinese fishermen harvested endangered and threatened species and used cyanide and explosives in their fishing... the marine environment and resources in the abovementioned areas were damaged severely and extensively in spite of adequate Philippine laws to protect them. Clearly, the damage is brought upon by lack of enforcement of Philippine environmental laws by respondents,” they argued.
Petitioners also cited the island-building activities at Panganiban reef.
“Based on compelling evidence, expert reports, and critical assessment of Chinese claims described above, the Tribunal (international arbitral court) has no doubt that China’s artificial island-building activities on the seven reefs in the Spratly Islands have caused devastating and long-lasting damage to the marine environment,” they added.
The harvesting by Chinese vessels of giant clams in the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal is a violation of Philippine territory and sovereignty, Malacanang said.
“Siyempre (of course), natural because if it’s our territory, therefore it is an affront to our territory and to our sovereignty,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing yesterday.
Panelo said Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin will take legal action after filing a note verbale against the Chinese activities that endanger maritime resources at the shoal claimed by the Philippines.
However, Panelo refused to preempt Locsin’s next move because “that is his territory.”
Meanwhile, Panelo said that “China, as far as it is concerned, it owns the vast South China Sea, hence, it will be performing acts of ownership or sovereignty over those areas.
“In other words, they are just being consistent with themselves. Eh tayo rin, we have to be consistent with ours. As far as we are concerned, that is ours so we will be objecting to any intrusion into our own territory,” added Panelo.