Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged Congress to investigate the reported dumping of human waste and wastewater by Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the Kalayaan Group of Islands which damage coral reefs and marine life in the country’s territorial waters.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 778, De Lima said it is incumbent upon the Senate to determine the extent of the damage caused by waste-dumping in the country’s territory and the action available to the government “to protect our marine resources within our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ].”
“Unmitigated and deliberate waste-dumping will not only damage our marine resources, but will also endanger our food security by destroying the breeding grounds of aquatic species in the areas affected” she said.
“This unregulated dumping of waste in our waters constitutes a direct affront to our sovereignty and an attack on our territory. If our government fails or refuses to act, it will prejudice the interests of our country, now and for future generations,” she added.
According to Simularity Inc., a software company which creates artificial intelligence technologies for satellite imagery analysis, swarms of Chinese vessels have dumped human waste and wastewater for years in the WPS.
They noted that satellite images over the last five years show how human waste, sewage and wastewater have accumulated and caused algae in a cluster of reefs in the Spratlys region where hundreds of Chinese fishing ships have anchored in batches.
Simularity further reported that sewage discharge led to increase in chlorophyll-A pigment, as evidenced by satellite imagery taken in mid-June, which was also seen in the Union Banks or Pagkakaisa Banks, a group of features in the Kalayaan Island Group that is part of Palawan.
“The report said chlorophyll-A concentration leads to excess phytoplankton which cannot be consumed by the reef inhabitants, so they die and sink to the sea floor to be consumed by bacteria. These bacteria consume oxygen that would normally be available to the fish, creating a ‘dead zone’ for marine life,” De Lima explained.
De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, also underscored the need “to review existing laws to cover vessels that stay for extended periods of time in waters over which our country exercises sovereign rights.”
Notably, it is prohibited under Section 4 of P.D. No. 979 or the Marine Pollution Decree of 1976, to discharge, dump or suffer, permit the discharge of oil, noxious gaseous and liquid substances and other harmful substances from or out of any ship, vessel, barge, or any other floating craft, or other man-made structures at sea, by any method, means or manner, into or upon the territorial and inland navigable waters of the Philippines.
“Imbes na magkaroon ng mabilisang imbestigasyon, mas kinilingan pa ng gobyernong ito ang pagsasabing peke ang balitang ito. Kungsabagay, mahirap talagang mapaniwala ang matagal nang nagbubulag-bulagan o nangungunsinte pa sa pang-aabuso’t pambabalasubas ng Tsina sa ating sariling karagatan,” said De Lima. (30)