The Philippine panel on Thursday criticized China for its reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that it said have posed a significant threat to the marine environment.
Malacañang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said Kent Carpenter, a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Old Dominion University in the United States, gave a presentation on the third day of the hearings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands, and expounded on the damage that China has been causing to the complex coral reef ecosystem in the South China Sea.
Carpenter said the damage from China’s island-building activities to the coral reef eco-system is “close to catastrophic.”
“[He] drew the conclusion that China’s actions have caused grave harm to the environment in the South China Sea due to its artificial island-building activities, and that the damage to the complex coral reef ecosystem is close to catastrophic,” Valte said in a bulletin issued from The Hague on Thursday.
She is part of the Philippine delegation attending the second round of hearings that started last Tuesday and are expected to end on Monday, November 30.
Thursday’s hearing marked the end of the first round of arguments for the hearing on merits of the Philippine case against China..
Carpenter was one of two expert witnesses presented by the Philippine panel to the arbitral tribunal.
Aside from the American professor, the Philippines also called Clive Schofield, director of Research and Security at the University of Wollongong in Australia, to the witness stand.
The Philippines’ principal counsel, Paul Reichler, described Carpenter and Schofield as independent experts who were presented to give their own analyses based on their areas of specialization.
Valte said Schofield presented his findings on 47 features requested by the tribunal to be studied to determine whether they are insular, low-tide or high-tide elevations.
The Australian expert also presented Landsat images of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal at high tide and low tide.
During the same hearing, Valte said, Alan Boyle presented to the tribunal the damage China has done to the marine ecosystem, more specifically, to the complex ecosystem of coral reefs, biological diversity and living resources in the South China Sea.
Boyle is an international law expert and amember of the Philippine panel in the hearings in The Hague
“[He] stated that, if unchecked, China’s activities will continue to pose a significant threat to the marine environment of the South China Sea and of all the states which border the sea,” the Palace official added.
She said Boyle argued that China has violated its obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) to protect and preserve the marine environment.
The international law expert cited instances of harmful fishing practices, such as blast fishing, cyanide fishing, harvesting of giant clams and catching of turtles and other endangered species.
Valte said Boyle pointed out that China, as a flag state, is responsible for its failure to prevent its fishermen and vessels from engaging in illegal fishing activities.
She added that Boyle detailed to the tribunal the series of near-collisions that occurred in
April and May 2012 at the Scarborough Shoal involving Chinese Marine Service vessels and Philippine vessels.
“These incidents, according to Boyle, displayed China’s ‘deliberate disregard for international law’ on the safety of maritime vessels,” Valte said.
She added that Bernard Oxman, meanwhile, presented to the tribunal other actions by China that aggravated and extended the dispute, even pending arbitration.
“Oxman cited instances where the Philippines was blocked by China from entering Ayungin [Second Thomas] Shoal for a resupply mission,” Valte said.
“[He] stressed that China’s denial of access forms part of ‘a deliberate policy to physically expel the Philippines and its nationals’ from the disputed features and its surrounding waters,” she added.