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The Philippines is exploring potential legal action against China regarding alleged coral reef destruction within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
The tension arises from accusations by the Philippines that China has inflicted environmental harm on the Iroquois Reef in the Spratly Islands. China disputes these claims, alleging the Philippines is merely trying to “create political drama.”
The two nations have seen escalating disagreements over the South China Sea this year, with the Philippines pointing fingers at the Chinese coastguard for risky activities near Second Thomas Shoal. China’s expansive claim over almost the entirety of the South China Sea based on its nine-dash line has caused territorial disputes with multiple countries.
In 2016, The Hague favored the Philippines over a prior dispute, deeming China’s nine-dash line claim as having no legal foundation. Despite this, China dismissed the ruling.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra confirmed on Thursday that they were evaluating the feasibility of new legal pursuits concerning the environmental impairment, including approaching the Hague. Teresita Daza, a spokeswoman, emphasized that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea mandates nations to safeguard marine ecosystems. She pointed out, “States entering the Philippines’s EEZ and maritime zones, therefore, are likewise obliged to protect and preserve our marine environment.”
Recent assessments by the Philippine coastguard revealed significant ecological degradation, especially around Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal. They attributed the damage primarily to China’s illicit fishing operations. In response, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning in Beijing dismissed these claims, urging the Philippines to “stop creating a political drama from fiction.”