Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario called on the government and its neighbors in Southeast Asia to agree on declaring the Spratlys a marine protected area to protect and rebuild the remaining marine life in the South China Sea.
He noted that the Spratlys are the breeding grounds of fish and other marine life that give food and sustenance to the people of Southeast Asia over centuries, adding that traditional fishermen and their families have lived throughout these years relying on their fish catch from these waters.
Citing the 2016 Arbitral Award of the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Del Rosario said the rich biodiverse region was “mercilessly destroyed” by China through its illegal reclamation and artificial-island building in the Spratlys.
The former DFA Secretary, who was among the architects of the successful arbitration case against Beijing, noted that since 2013, Chinese dredgers pulverized the coral reefs in the Spratlys and used these dead coral reefs and other sediments to create dry land.
Given the destruction of these fish sanctuaries in the Spratlys, he said scientists are now warning that this has accelerated one of the world’s worst fisheries collapse that may lead to mass starvation in the region.