A sandbar near Pag-asa Island was found to be full of dead and crushed corals, which experts say is a common procedure done by China before it starts reclamation activities.
As reported by Joseph Morong on GMA’s “24 Oras Weekend” on Sunday, Sandy Cay 2 was found to have been covered with piles of dead and crushed corals almost as high as a human—compared with Sandy Cay 1, where the sand is still uncovered.
Sandy Cay 2 is one of four sandbars near Pag-asa Island in the town of Kalayaan, located in the West Philippine Sea. It is also said to be blocked by vessels of the China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia vessels.
Prior to entering the area, a ship of the China Coast Guard also attempted to occupy the area and blew horns.
GMA Integrated News is awaiting a statement from the AFP’s Western Command and is still trying to reach out to the Chinese Embassy regarding the matter.
The latest report comes after the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier this month confirmed massive coral harvesting from Rozul (Iroquois) Reef.
Maritime law experts believe the latest moves are consistent with measures taken by China when it starts building on disputed territory.
One of the experts, Jay Batongbacal, also pointed to the possibility that the corals were being used by China as materials for decorations, ornaments, and jewelry.
Earlier this month, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed “severe damage” to the marine environment and the coral reef in the seabeds of Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
“The surveys conducted in Escoda Shoal revealed visible discoloration of its seabed, strongly indicating that deliberate activities may have been undertaken to modify the natural topography of its underwater terrain,” PCG spokesperson for WPS Commodore Jay Tarriela said in a statement on September 18.
Tarriela has since said the PCG will reach out to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for possible diplomatic and legal actions. It will also reach out to the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI) about the matter.
The Philippines sued China and won in 2016 as it secured a landmark ruling by an international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s massive South China Sea claims.
The same ruling deemed Scarborough Shoal—also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal—a common fishing ground, and outlawed China’s aggressions against Filipino fishermen in the area, including preventing local fisherfolk from accessing the shoal.
China has refused to acknowledge such ruling, with over 50 of its vessels spotted in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the area, as reported by the Western Command in July.
On Sunday, the PCG also reported that the China Coast Guard has installed a floating barrier in the southeast portion of Scarborough Shoal.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. last November said he told Chinese officials to uphold international law, and follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding areas of the South China Sea.
Marcos in January said China will not stop Filipino fishermen from fishing despite tensions in the West Philippine Sea, citing an agreement between Manila and Beijing.
In March, however, China maintained that it has sovereign rights over Scarborough Shoal, following reports of the Philippine Coast Guard of a “close distance maneuvering” incident involving a Chinese vessel in the area. — BM, GMA Integrated News