Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 13) At least three senators on Tuesday urged the Duterte administration to take a more proactive role after Chinese ships were reportedly found dumping human waste in the Spratly Islands and causing damage to the entire South China Sea.
Senators Ralph Recto, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Tolentino said the government should conduct its own probe to verify the report of US-based geospatial imagery firm Simularity that Chinese crews of the hundreds of anchored ships continue to dump human waste and sewage in the reefs, causing long-term damage to marine life in the disputed waters.
“It is not only reclaiming land in the West Philippine Sea; by its actions, it is also renaming it as the Waste Philippine Sea. By turning reefs into toilets, two man-made things are now visible from space: the Great Wall of China on land, and the Great Wastes of China at sea,” Recto said.
Simularity reported that the sewage discharge led to increase in chlorophyll A pigment, which is visible from space. This was also seen in the Union Banks or Pagkakaisa Banks, a group of features in the Kalayaan Island Group which the Philippines considers part of Palawan province. It said chlorophyll A concentration leads to excess phytoplankton which cannot be consumed by the reef inhabitants, so they die and sink to the sea floor to be consumed by bacteria.
Hontiveros said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should keep a tally of how much China owes the Philippines for its incursions in the West Philippines. Based on her office’s estimates, China should pay P800 billion for all of damage in reef ecosystems and loss in fish stock.
Simularity warned that damage to the reefs directly affects the fish stocks of the entire South China Sea, where the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam have claims, but is mostly contested by China. It said the ceaseless dumping of raw sewage may lead to a hunger crisis and a collapse of commercial fishing as the size of fish stock in the disputed waters is directly linked to the health of its reefs.
Recto added that under domestic and international environmental laws, ships are prohibited from dumping trash into seas. He stressed that even without these laws, these actions should be stopped as proof of decency.
“DENR should investigate this, and if there is basis, file charges in court. Government cannot fine sidewalk litterers while turning a blind eye to this. DFA should also study filing a diplomatic protest,” he said.
Tolentino chimed in, “If it is determined that state actors or state-sponsored activities were involved, the Department of Foreign Affairs should take the appropriate action by invoking the Convention on Biological Diversity.”
Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, said the Philippine government should condemn this clear show of disrespect from the side of Chinese seafarers.
“We can only hope that this comes as a wake-up call to the administration on the stinking reality that China gives no respect to international law, whether it be our territorial or environmental rights,” she added.
The DENR said it will coordinate with the Defense Department and Coast Guard to authenticate the report and verify if Chinese vessels were involved in the incidents. If proven, it said it will “seek the attention” of the Chinese government through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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