Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino believes there's something deeper in China's coral harvesting endeavors in Iroquios or Rozul Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), saying that it might be a prelude to reclamation.
“May iba pang plano siguro po riyan, di lang ‘yong pagkuha ng corals at pagdurog nito. Iyong pagpatay kasi ng corals ay prelude sa isang bagay— pag pinatay mo iyon, pwede ka nang mag-reclaim (Perhaps there's a different plan there, not just harvesting and destroying corals. Destroying corals is a prelude to something - if you kill it, you can reclaim)," Tolentino said in an interview on GMA's Unang Hirit on Monday, Sept. 18.
Tolentino, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Maritime and Admiralty Zones, also noted that the said harvesting violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Kung magfa-file po tayo ng claim, damages, dapat sa isang tribunal na recognized ng UNCLOS, United Nations (If we will file a claim, damages, it has to be in a tribunal recognized by the UNCLOS),” he said.
Meanwhile, Tolentino is currently crafting the Philippine Maritime Zone Law that he envisions to be the country’s legal basis for its territorial dispute.
“Iyon po ang kinukutya sa atin ng China, 'Nagke-claim kayo rito, wala naman kayong maritime zone law (That's what China's insulting us with, 'You are claiming here, but you don't have a maritime zone law)," he said.
Meanwhile, opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for a Senate resolution and investigation on the issue.
“This would not be the first time na nagenvironmental degradation ang Tsina sa ating dagat (that China committed environmental degradation of our seas,” Hontiveros pointed out.
“They also dredged our sea floor to invent their artificial islands, militarize them, within the West Philippine Sea and our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), para i-claim na teritoryo nila (to claim that it is part of their territory),” she said.
Hontiveros also recalled that China still owes the Philippines P800-billion for the destruction of the country’s natural resources due to its activities in the West Philippine Sea.
“Salamat sa Armed Forces of the Philippines sa pagbunyag nito. I think it deserves an investigation, at idagdag natin sa humahabang litsahan ng utang ng Tsina sa ating bansa (We thank the AFP for exposing this issue. I think it deserves an investigation and we need to add this to the list of what China owes our country,” the senator said. (With reports from Hannah Torregoza)