Senators assail China's waste disposal in WPS

Published July 13, 2021, 1:57 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators on Tuesday, July 13, urged the Philippine government to file charges and protests against China for dumping human waste in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto (Senate PRIB)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, in a statement, hit China for supposedly turning the West Philippine Sea to a “Waste Philippine Sea”.

“It is not only reclaiming land in the West Philippine Sea; by its actions, it is also renaming it as the Waste Philippine Sea,” the Senate leader said.

“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,” he added.

Satellite photos from United States-based geospatial analysis firm Simularity showed that lingering Chinese ships in the South China Sea and parts of the WPS have been disposing raw sewage for years, damaging the reefs and resource-rich waters.

“[The] DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should investigate this, and if there is basis, file charges in court. Government cannot fine sidewalk litterers while turning a blind eye to this,” Recto appealed.

“DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) should also study filing a diplomatic protest,” he added.

Recto said domestic and international laws prohibit ships from the disposing refuse and trash into the oceans. In the Philippines, he pointed out that such “environmental crimes” carry a jail term and a hefty fine.

“Even without these laws, decent human behavior commands civilized men not to turn rich fishing grounds into a cesspool of feces,” Recto said.

Senator Grace Poe echoed the same sentiment, saying: “It is certainly infuriating and disgusting to hear the reports of human wastes being dumped on the West Philippine Sea.”

“China treating us as its toilet is a clear violation of both international and local environmental laws,” she added.

“This adds insult to injury. We are not the dumping site of any country, let alone by a nation laying claims on our territory,” she further said.

Poe said the incident should serve as a wake up call to the Duterte administration “on the stinking reality that China gives no respect to international law, whether it be our territorial or environmental rights.”

“The government must strongly condemn this and demand the immediate cessation of any waste-dumping activities in the area. Anything less would be unacceptable,” she pointed out.

Senator Francis Tolentino likewise suggested to the DENR to look into the incident “soonest”, stressing that the area is within the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.

“Thereafter, 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, as the anthropogenic pressures on the area will impact on the coral reefs and other vulneralble ecosystems which the international community aims to protect,” he said in a separate statement.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, for his part, said the Philippines could assert its environmental laws within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, took to Twitter to assail the reported disposal in the WPS, which, he said, showed China’s disregard for the environment and the Philippines’ sovereignty.

“They don’t mind. Walang malasakit kasi hindi naman sa kanilan not to mention walang respeto sa kapitbahay (They don’t care because it’s not theirs, not to mention their disrespect for their neighbor),” Lacson wrote in a a now-deleted tweet.

He later said that “it’s best to fact-check first before any official action is taken on the matter.”

“Because aside from being a serious and sensitive issue to resolve, it involves an Asian neighbor with whom we have at least five decades of diplomatic relations,” Lacson added, explaining why he deleted his earlier tweet.