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China: Philippines Damaging Coral Reefs In Disputed Atolls


China has accused the Philippines of illegally beaching warships at the Nansha Islands, alleging severe damage to the coral reef ecosystem in the area. This accusation comes amidst ongoing territorial disputes between the two nations over various atolls in the South China Sea.

China’s Claims and Environmental Concerns

On Monday, China’s Ministry of Natural Resources released a comprehensive report claiming that Philippine warships have been “illegally beached” around Second Thomas Shoal near the Nansha Islands for a prolonged period. The report states that this action has “seriously damaged the diversity, stability, and sustainability of the reef ecosystem.”

As of now, there has been no immediate response from the spokespersons of the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy regarding China’s claims or the contents of the report.

Disputed Territories and Strategic Importance

The Philippines and China have long disputed the Spratly Islands, known as the Nansha Islands in China, along with the Second Thomas Shoal and Sabina Shoal. These islands lie in a crucial waterway that facilitates over $3 trillion in annual shipborne commerce.

The Philippines maintains a military presence on a deliberately grounded, aging warship at the Second Thomas Shoal. This act, carried out in 1999, was intended to reinforce Manila’s maritime claims.

Call for Removal of Beached Warships

China’s report suggests that the Philippines should remove the “illegal” beached warships to eliminate pollution sources and prevent further harm to the coral reef ecosystem.

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Historical Context and Legal Disputes

China asserts extensive claims over the South China Sea, which have been challenged by other nations, including the Philippines. In 2016, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s expansive maritime claims had no legal basis, a ruling Beijing has rejected.

Both countries have accused each other of causing coral reef damage through the operations of ships and fishing vessels in certain atolls.

Last year, the Philippines explored legal options against China, accusing it of destroying coral reefs within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. This legal exploration highlights the ongoing tension and environmental concerns in the region.

The latest accusations from China add to the complex and heated dispute over the South China Sea. Both nations continue to blame each other for environmental damage, underscoring the need for a resolution to protect the region’s fragile ecosystem.

With Inputs from Reuters