South Pacific The 'coral war' between the Philippines and China for control of islands and atolls: "Do not use invented information to create a political spectacle"

Territorial tensions between the Philippines and China increase with the option of Manila filing a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the loss of coral in disputed waters in the South China Sea, for which it blames Beijing, which it crossed out this Thursday the accusations "unfounded

South Pacific The 'coral war' between the Philippines and China for control of islands and atolls: "Do not use invented information to create a political spectacle"

Territorial tensions between the Philippines and China increase with the option of Manila filing a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the loss of coral in disputed waters in the South China Sea, for which it blames Beijing, which it crossed out this Thursday the accusations "unfounded."

The Philippine State Attorney's Office revealed this week that it is considering filing the complaint, after last Saturday the Philippine Armed Forces reported the loss of coral in a reef where Chinese ships had docked, and on Monday another affected reef was confirmed.

The head of the State Attorney's Office, Menardo Guevarra, indicated this week to the GMA news service that they are studying the case and gathering information before presenting the petition to the court.

China has denied the Philippine government's accusations, and Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning has called them "baseless and meaningless."

"We advise the Philippines not to use invented information to create a political spectacle," said the spokesperson, accusing Manila of "illegally running aground" a military ship in the South China Sea, which "should be removed as soon as possible." because "it causes irreversible damage to the sea due to its continuous oxidation."

Mao was referring to a Philippine ship stranded since 1999 on the Ayungin Atoll (known as Ren'ai in China), in an area of ​​the South China Sea disputed between both countries, an issue that also generates tensions.

Beijing's diversion of attention has not caught on in the Philippines, whose Ministry of Justice has recommended that legal action be taken over the destruction of the corals, pointing to China as responsible.

Two Philippine ships discovered the damage to the Rozul and Escoda reefs after observing the presence of more than 30 Chinese surveillance vessels in the former and another 15 in the latter between August 9 and September 11.

The Philippine Coast Guard, which this year has accused China of attacking its ships with military lasers and water cannons, believes the corals were extracted, processed and then deposited back into the sea to modify the topography of the area.

Coral reefs are highly valuable natural assets, providing coastal protection and fishing benefits, and sustaining many local communities.

For months, the Philippines has denounced the growing presence of Chinese warships and fishing vessels in the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

If the complaint is filed, it would be the second filed by the Philippines before the Permanent Court of Arbitration over disputes in the South China Sea.

In 2016, this court ruled in favor of Manila in its complaint against the claims of the Chinese authorities in the Philippine exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, but Beijing refused to accept the decision.

China and the Philippines are in a conflict over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely for "historical reasons", with territories also being disputed with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing have increased in recent months, following the coming to power last year of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has chosen to reinforce the historic defense alliance of the Philippines with the United States, reversing the rapprochement to China promoted by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

At the beginning of the month, Marcos Jr. and Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang held a meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Jakarta, in which the Filipino defended that "cooperation in the maritime field can only prosper in an enabling environment of peace, security and stability, anchored in international law".