Chinese ship near Panatag, DND to verify—Lorenzana

The government is verifying reports of the alleged presence of a Chinese research ship spotted near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

In a statement, Lorenzana said the Department of National Defense will act after maritime patrols in the area are done.

“Rest assured that the AFP, through the Northern Luzon Command, undertakes regular domain awareness operations and provides all the necessary support to the Philippine Coast Guard and other agencies to secure and implement our laws in our territorial waters and the EEZ,” he said.

This developed as according to a report by Simularity, a company that specializes in geospatial analysis and provides satellite data imagery, there is “significant” evidence that occupied reefs in Spratly Islands are being damaged by “excess nutrients.”

The image-rich report, released Thursday, also said reefs in Spratly Islands that have no human activity have “less chlorophyll-A than occupied reefs.”

It said Union Banks’ reefs “have more reef degrading macroalgae than similar reefs which are not occupied.”

Harmful chlorophyll-A blooms are created when raw sewage is dumped into the waters.

In July, Simularity reported that human waste and sewage from hundreds of Chinese ships anchored in the South China Sea and parts of the West Philippine Sea are causing massive marine damage to the resource-rich waters.

According to the company’s July report, Chinese ships have been dumping raw sewage every day for several years on reefs, creating harmful chlorophyll-A blooms in the waters.

The Philippine government said it would verify Simularity’s report on waste dumping in the West Philippine Sea.

The new report mentions Johnson South Reef and Hughes Reef, which are occupied by China, and Landsowne Reef, which is occupied by Vietnam.

Ross Reef, on the other hand, is not occupied but is “located near significant human activity,” the report said.

Both Johnson South Reef and Hughes Reef have an outpost each, while Landsowne Reef has two outposts, with the second one just built in 2017.

Through illustrations, the firm said there is “significantly less” chlorophyll-A in Bombay, Northeast Investigator and Royal Captain Shoals — all unoccupied — from 2016 to 2021.

“The lowed chlorophyll-A levels indicate the coral is less likely to be damaged by macroalgae overgrowth,” the report said.

The Philippines has previously protested China’s continued presence and deployment of vessels in Philippine waters.

In 2013, the Philippines challenged China’s legal basis for its expansive claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, and won the case in a landmark award in 2016 after the tribunal invalidated Beijing’s assertions.

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