MANILA, Philippines – Environmentalists are pushing for the creation of a marine peace park and sanctuary in the South China Sea.
In a petition filed with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, environment advocates said the raging disputes among some Asian nations over large areas in the South China pose a serious threat to marine resources.
Joseph Moravec of the Center for Environmental Legal Studies in New York filed the petition together with 11 co-sponsors, including the Ecological Society of the Philippines, the Sierra Club and similar organizations from Australia, Bangladesh, Lebanon and Pakistan, among others.
The South China Sea, specifically the areas around Spratly Islands and the Coral Triangle, is said to contain some of the most bio-diverse marine resources in the world, but is at the center of disputes among several nations including the Philippines, China and Vietnam.
They said the July ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration cited significant environmental degradation caused by island building activities in the South China Sea.
“The creation of a marine peace park and sanctuary is the ideal solution to the hotbed that the South China Sea has become, and is the peaceful solution for all countries claiming the territory,” said Antonio Claparols, president of the Ecological Society of the Philippines.
IUCN is based in Switzerland and is the oldest and largest international conservation organization in the world. IUCN maintains observer status in the United Nations.
The World Conservation Congress, ongoing at the Honolulu Convention Center in Hawaii, is held every four years. It brings together more than 7,000 delegates from more than 1,000 organizations advocating environment protection and conservation.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy arrested on Thursday 17 Vietnamese poachers on three fishing vessels off Vigan City in Ilocos Sur.
The Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) said the arrest took place 21 nautical miles west of Dile Point, Vigan City.
Naval Task Group 11.1 Commander Ronnie Paba said the Vietnamese poachers were brought to Fort Salomague in Cabugao town, Ilocos Sur for further questioning.
The arrested Vietnamese were Tran Huu Trung, Bui Van Liem, Le Tien, Bui Van Luom, Huynh Hgoe Tuan, Le Than Trung, Tran Hoang Kim, Va An, Phan Haui Tuy, Nguger Van Phoung, Ngryan Dy Fuong, Vo Thien, Dink Thien Son, Nguyen Gio, Hyunh Thanh Thang, Do Thenh Lai and Tran Huu Phuc.
Paba said the arrested Vietnamese face charges of poaching and illegal entry as they failed to show documents allowing them to fish in Philippine waters.
The Vietnamese were reportedly spotted sailing directly toward the payaos or fish sanctuaries set up by Filipino fishermen barred by the Chinese from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
“They were illegally fishing using their floodlights that kill smaller fish around the fish sanctuary when our gunboat moved in Thursday morning to intercept and apprehend the fishing vessels that later turned out to be Vietnamese,” a senior Navy official said.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Bernard Sabado, NFNL spokesman, confirmed the apprehension of the three Vietnamese fishing vessels late yesterday afternoon.
The three vessels sailed to Poro Point in San Fernando City, La Union, the home base of NFNL, escorted by a navy patrol boat.
Navy officials have coordinated with the immigration bureau and the Vietnamese embassy regarding the arrests.
As of press time, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was still conducting an inventory of the marine resources found on the Vietnamese boats. – With Artemio Dumlao, Jaime Laude