Govt. to probe reported dumping of waste by Chinese ships in West PH Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 13)—  The government will look into a report allegedly showing the dumping of human waste by Chinese ships in the Spratly Islands, the Department of Defense said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he has directed authorities to “verify and investigate” the report of US-based geospatial imagery firm Simularity, which supposedly revealed that Beijing’s vessels have been causing long-term marine life damage by dumping waste and sewage in the reefs.

“While we are confirming and verifying these wastes being dumped in the WPS, we consider such irresponsible acts, if true, to be gravely detrimental to the marine ecology in the area,” Lorenzana said, adding that all nations staking their claims on the South China Sea “must be responsible stewards of our natural resources and environment.”

A number of lawmakers, including Senators Ralph Recto, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Tolentino, earlier urged the Duterte administration to take a more proactive role following the circulation of the Simularity report, which purportedly showed that the sewage discharge has led to an increase in chlorophyll A pigment.

Simularity said chlorophyll A concentration leads to excess phytoplankton which cannot be consumed by the reef inhabitants, which die and sink to the sea floor to be consumed by bacteria.

It also warned that damage to the reefs directly affects the fish stocks of the entire South China Sea, where the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam have claims, but is mostly contested by China. The reported added the ceaseless dumping of raw sewage may lead to a hunger crisis and a collapse of commercial fishing as the size of fish stock in the disputed waters is directly linked to the health of its reefs.

Lorenzana, however, still raised questions over the report.

“The photo of a ship seen dumping waste accompanying the report was found to have been taken in the Australian Great Barrier Reef in 2014,” Lorenzana said. “Therefore this intent to mislead has cast great doubt on the accurateness of the Simularity Report.”

The Environment Department earlier said it will coordinate with the DND and Coast Guard to authenticate the report and verify if Chinese vessels were involved in the incidents. If proven, it said it will "seek the attention" of the Chinese government through the Department of Foreign Affairs.