DENR deplores China's alleged coral harvest endangering WPS biodiversity

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 22) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has strongly deplored China's alleged harvesting of corals that endangers biodiversity in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Scientific studies have established that the marine ecosystem in the Kalayaan Island Group is critical for the sustainable supply of fish and coral larvae in the Philippines and the region,” the DENR said in a statement dated Sept. 20 but released on Friday.

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“We, therefore, strongly deplore any activity that leads to the damage and destruction of the coral reefs in the Kalayaan Island Group,” it added. “We join the call for signatory States and their citizens to adhere to Article 192 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) — to protect and preserve the marine environment.”

It also drew attention to a new treaty seeking the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the UNCLOS that was recently signed by over 60 nations, including China. 

The DENR said harmful human interference with marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, is a loss to the country, the Asia-Pacific region, and the world.

The agency said it is ready to support and be guided by concerned government agencies in exploring legal remedies the Philippines may pursue regarding the incident.

READ: DOJ, OSG to discuss filing of cases against China for alleged destruction of WPS reefs

The Philippine military earlier said it had observed damaged corals in Rozul Reef, also known as Iroquious Reef, while the Philippine Coast Guard also said “severe damage” to the marine environment was also spotted at Escoda Shoal, as China was suspected of harvesting corals in these reefs. Chinese vessels were recently seen in these areas, which are within the country’s EEZ. 

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