By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang has urged the military to verify reports that Chinese vessels were allegedly poaching giant clams and destroying coral reefs in Panatag Shoal.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command is expected to refer its report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for possible action.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of that, and I suppose the Western Command should make validation of that and then refer it to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs for whatever action the Department may take on that issue,” he said.
Asked if the government will file a diplomatic protest about the clam issue, Panelo said: “That depends on the DFA.”
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has reportedly released satellite images showing the alleged clam harvesting committed by some Chinese vessels in Panatag Shoal.
The satellite photos reportedly showed new scarring on the reef from the clam poaching.
Panelo, meantime, left to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to address the reported fishing moratorium imposed by China in the South China Sea.
The Palace, however, stressed the government will continue to assert the country’s sovereignty over its territorial waters.
“The policy of the government will always be consistent with its policy that it will assert its sovereignty over the areas claimed to be its own. So, it will always pursue that line,” he said.