Greenpeace has been relatively mute about destructive activities occurring in the South China Sea, including the mass poisoning of fish in the waters around Pag-asa Island in the Spratly chain. While the Filipino island residents give eyewitness accounts about Chinese vessels dumping chemicals that destroy fish stock and deprive fishermen of their livelihood, Greenpeace appears to be looking the other way.
Greenpeace is known for having taken on Russia in September 2013, by sending a ship, the Arctic Sunrise, to stage a protest against an offshore fixed platform in the Barents Sea. The Russian coast guard intervened and took the Arctic Sunrise, flying a Dutch flag in mute defiance, to the port of Murmansk. According to The Strategist, 30 Greenpeace activists were charged with the crime of piracy under Russian law and put in pre-trial detention before eventually being granted amnesty and sent home.
Professing to protect the safety and sustainable development of the environment, Greenpeace has been mute about the ecological havoc being perpetrated right under its nose. China’s dredging operations in the South China Sea began in early 2014 with seven reefs, namely, Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, and Johnson South Reef.
Among the land formations seized by China for dredging purposes are three taken from the Philippines: Mischief Reef (part of the Spratlys) in 1994, the Scarborough Shoal (not part of the Spratlys) in 2012, and Quirino Atoll, a ring-shaped coral reef, in 2016. They hold strategic value in China’s reclamation efforts allowed by Greenpeace to go unchallenged, leaving vast acres of marine life as the mute victim in ecological rape.
One of the islands in the Spratly chain is Pag-asa also called Thitu, inhabited by Filipino nationals and belonging to the Kalayaan municipality of Palawan, Philippines. Despite the anguish of witnesses to the ecological mayhem, Greenpeace has chosen to be mute about the Filipino fisherfolk and their damning testimony regarding once-pristine coral reefs being crushed by dredgers, the fish willfully poisoned.
Greenpeace has a strong presence in China after taking root in Hong Kong in 1997 and adding offices in Beijing and Guangzhou. Rather than becoming mute and intimidated in this totalitarian setting, the environmental group has come out criticizing China’s toxic air quality from CO2 emissions, faulty storage and transport of hazardous chemicals, excessive coal consumption, illegal logging in giant panda and elephant habitats, and illegal fishing. But in terms of China’s politically-charged reclamation projects across the South China Sea, Greenpeace has chosen not to rock the boat.
In April 2015, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs made up for Greenpeace’s mute response to the South China Sea gutting by denouncing China’s reclamation activities as causing “irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance.”
According to The National Interest, the exposé sans a Greenpeace endorsement, slammed China’s activities as destroying “over 300 hectares of coral reef systems, amounting to an annual economic loss of US$100 million.” The damage extends beyond the artificial islands into the waters of surrounding littoral states, a mute testament to avarice and ambition.
Rather than Greenpeace, a Filipino youth group called Kalayaan ATIN ITO (Our Freedom) has picked up the cudgels for the fishermen under attack by the environmental spoilers. The youth group has teamed up with the Pag-asa islanders who have been mute long enough and presented their case to Kalayaan Municipal Mayor Eugenio B. Bito-Onon Jr. for official intervention.
Under questioning by the mayor, the youth activists backed the claims of Pag-asa residents regarding Chinese vessels regularly releasing chemicals “to destroy the corals and marine species,” which should have been a Greenpeace call to arms. On their Kalayaan ATIN ITO Facebook page, the youthful defenders of Pag-asa would not stay mute about their advocacy.
“We have said this and we will continue to inform the people, that China is aggressively removing economic activities of the civilian community at the Kalayaan Island Group to drive away civilians and isolate the Islands. Once all civilians are gone, Chinese military activities to occupy the islands will be easier.”
Situated 280 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Princesa and 579 miles southwest of Metro Manila, Pag-asa is meekly isolated with its population of 222 people, dilapidated airstrip, five-bed clinic, and small elementary school. Facing the worst man-made ecological disaster in the region’s history, the Pag-asa fisherfolk apparently have no chance in hell of a rescue attempt from a Greenpeace playing mute.
[Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images]