Philippine Coast Guard drives away China warship
THE PHILIPPINE Coast Guard on Monday said it had driven away a Chinese warship in the South China Sea, in another sign of tension between the two nations.
The Coast Guard had sent a verbal challenge to a Chinese warship spotted at Marie Louise Bank, it said, citing a July 13 report. The Chinese vessel eventually moved away from the area.
The foreign vessel sent a radio message identifying itself as “Chinese Navy Warship 189” and asked the Philippine ship tailing it to keep distance, the Coast Guard said.
The two nations’ vessels have been locked in a standoff in the South China Sea for months after hundreds of Chinese ships swarmed the disputed territory earlier this year.
The Philippines has repeatedly protested the ships’ presence and has been backed by the US, while Beijing has said its actions were normal and legitimate.
The Philippines under the late President Benigno S.C. Aquino III sued China before the arbitration court in the Hague given its island-building and military activities in the South China Sea. The court in 2016 favored the Philippines in a decision that China has ignored.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has sought closer trade and investment ties with China since he became President in 2016, in March belittled the legal victory, saying it was just a piece of paper that could end up in a trash bin.
“I pursued it but nothing happened,” he said in a televised speech in Filipino on May 5. He added that between scalawags, one could always say that “it’s just a piece of paper and I would throw it in the waste basket.”
Philippine legislators have been urging Mr. Duterte to boost Philippine alliance with the US. The tough-talking leader had criticized the US for what he claimed was its ill treatment of its former colony.
Under Mr. Aquino’s watch, the Philippines signed an enhanced defense cooperation pact with the US, the country’s key western ally.
Mr. Duterte had not decided whether to keep a visiting forces agreement with the US, his spokesman earlier said.
The President in February last year said he would end the deal on the deployment of troops for war games after the US Embassy canceled the visa of his ally Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, his former police chief who led his deadly war on drugs.
US-based geospatial imagery firm Simularity, Inc. has said Chinese ships could also be dumping human wastes in other parts of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.
Simularity’s earlier report showing swarms of Chinese ships anchored in Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea dumping human waste only covered Union Banks, founder and Chief Executive Officer Liz Derr told a virtual forum last week.
Ms. Derr noted that based on their calculations, 2,596 pounds or more than a ton of human wastes were being dumped around the Spratly and Paracel Islands daily.
She also asked Philippine authorities to validate their report. “I wholeheartedly encourage the government to validate our findings, question our findings, understand the science and see for themselves.”
She issued the call after Philippine authorities downplayed the firm’s report that human waste and wastewater have accumulated at Union Banks in the resource-rich
Spratly Islands, where more than 200 Chinese ships have moored.
Ms. Derr said there are ways to address the issue that would not lead to an “international incident.”
Environment Undersecretary and spokesman Benny D. Antiporda on Wednesday downplayed the report, saying the image showed not waste discharge but most probably oil spill.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana also questioned the report, saying it was only based on multi-spectral satellite images.
Ms. Derr said the raw sewage had led to the overgrowth of harmful algae in the disputed area, threatening marine life and damaging corals.
Mr. Lorenzana has said concerned agencies were verifying the report.
A group of congressmen has filed a resolution calling on the House committees on aquaculture and foreign affairs to investigate the report.
Senator Ralph G. Recto also asked the government to verify the Simularity report and file charges in court if needed. He said the government could not fine sidewalk litterers while turning a blind eye to this.
Mr. Recto noted that ships are barred by domestic and international laws from dumping their trash in the oceans.
Under Philippine laws, such are environmental crimes that carry a jail term and a hefty fine, he said. Even without these laws, decent human behavior commands civilized men not to turn rich fishing grounds into a “cesspool of feces,” he added. —