Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Wednesday, July 14, that they are verifying information that Chinese vessels dumped human waste in the disputed waters in Spratly Islands, but stressed that the Philippines is not a dumpsite.
The Palace official said that the “responsible answer” is to say that the country’s officials are verifying first if the report is true. Once it has been verified, that’s when they will react.
Roque compared the incident to Canada illegally sending 2,400 tons of waste to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, which the Duterte administration started sending back in May 2019 “no ifs, no buts.”
“So, matagal na po tayo naninindigan na hindi basurahan at syempre hindi kubeta ang Pilipinas. Tingnan muna natin kung mayroong katotohanan dahil kung wala naman, di tayo ‘yung mapapahiya (So, we’ve long stood up that the Philippines is not a dumpsite and definitely not a toilet. We will see first if there is truth to it because if not, we don’t want to be embarrassed),” he said.
On Monday, July 12, United States-based geospatial imagery firm Simularity, released a report saying that Chinese ships moored in the Spratly Islands are creating long-term marine life damage in the entire West Philippine Sea by dumping human waste.
The release of the report coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Philippines’ landmark arbitral win against China on the validity of the basis of its claims in the resource-rich region.
Liz Derr, Simularity co-founder and chief executive officer, said that the impact of the sewage runoff was “so intense you can see it from space.”
However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana noted that the photo used by Simularity in its report to depict the incident was taken on the Great Barrier Reef in 2014. He also questioned how Simularity was able to conclude that those are human waste based only on satellite photos.
The Chinese Embassy said the same thing, pointing out that the report used an old photo, which illustrated the presence of phytoplankton and algae blooms caused by excess nutrients in the water.
The spokesperson denied accusations that the government is being careful not to hurt China, saying that they are only being responsible.
“We have to accord our neighbors and our friends the presumption of good faith when they something about an issue of fact. So, we accord that statement of presumption of good faith,” Roque said.
“Hindi naman tayo pumapayag na tapunan ang Pilipinas. Ni minsan hindi po tayo pumayag sa administrasyon ni Presidente Duterte (We are not allowing the Philippines to be a dumpsite. We never allowed that in the administration of President Duterte),” Roque in a separate interview at the vaccination site of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) wherein he was a special guest.