PH has 'strong case' vs. China over coral harvesting in WPS – maritime expert

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Philippines has a "strong case" against China over its alleged coral harvesting in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), maritime expert Jay Batongbacal said Wednesday.

"There is evidence to back-up a claim that they have been undertaking these activities," he told CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Wednesday. "The question lies on how much can the Philippines prove through direct and substantial evidence."

Batongbacal said local fishermen near the area have been reporting about these activities since 2015.

READ: China's suspected damaging of WPS reefs 'ripe' for Senate probe - Hontiveros

But he warned that the Philippines must prepare and strategize about the legal case as China is again expected to resist this kind of litigation.

"We have to think carefully on what we want out of this action if ever we take it," he said.

"Filing a case and gathering evidence for a case like this is not easy. We need to be careful and very deliberate in our steps here," he added.

READ: DOJ recommends filing of cases vs China over coral harvesting in West PH Sea

'International pressure'

Other than prompting Beijing to pay damages, Batongbacal said the legal case must also be part of a broader strategy of mobilizing international pressure against China in various fora.

He said the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute came up with around 11 strategies against China and its activities in the WPS – from investigatory procedures to litigations.

READ: PCG to tap marine experts to inspect WPS reefs supposedly damaged by China

Batongbacal added that the case will also be "inevitably" based on the landmark South China Sea arbitration award in 2016 as it establishes the country's rights to natural resources in the WPS, which include coral reefs.