By Filane Mikee Cervantes

Sabina (Escoda) Shoal (Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – A marine scientist from the University of the Philippines (UP) called for continuous monitoring amid the ecological disaster happening in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), particularly in Sabina (Escoda) Shoal.

At the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City, Dr. Jonathan Anticamara of the UP Institute of Biology reported “excessive” coral damage in the shallow waters of Sabina Shoal based on a two-day scientific mission conducted with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) this week to assess health of the corals.

“So, ang nangyari sa Sabina ngayon ay medyo disastrous kasi marami sa mga foundation na species tawag natin corals or habitat-forming species are completely dead sa mga (So what is happening in Sabina is quite disastrous because many of the foundations species called corals or habitat-forming species are completely dead in the) shallow waters,” Anticamara said.

Sabina Shoal is about 75 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and is situated within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Anticamara said the assessment also revealed extensive coral bleaching in the shoal.

He said monitoring could shed light on questions regarding the environmental impacts of China’s land reclamation efforts in the area.

He also noted that monitoring could help the government gather solid evidence for a strong environmental damage suit against China.

“I think na ang pinakamahalaga para sa akin ay talagang i-monitor natin ito. Bantayan natin at manmanan, kasi nga ang dami nating hindi alam, to be able to establish iyong kung ano nangyari, anong katotohanan (I think what’s important is to monitor this. We need to monitor and keep an eye on this to establish what happened, the truth since we have a lot of stuff we don’t know),” he said.

“So, therefore, kung gusto natin maging 100 percent sure tayo, kailangan natin ng maraming ebidensiya. Kailangan natin mag-monitor, magmanman (if we want to be 100 percent sure, we need a lot of evidence. We need to monitor and observe),” he added.

Anticamara said many of the animals that depend on the corals in the area are gone, claiming the occurrence of local extinction.

“What the humanity is facing now is the greatest problem of humanity [which] is biodiversity lost. Extensive amount of species being lost,” he said. “Sa case ng Escoda ngayon, ang consequence nito, nawawala napakadaming mga specie ng isda, crabs, shrimps, etcetera. Na-extinct sila locally (In the case of Escoda now, the consequence is that several species such as fish, crabs, shrimps, etcetera, have become locally extinct),” he added.

He said the cause of destruction and over exploitation in the WPS is the presence of thousands of Chinese fishing vessels that started to appear in 2013.

He also pointed out that the ships anchored closely together block the sunlight needed by the corals, resulting in their gradual death and destruction.

The Chinese do not care about environmental sensitivities, Anticamara said.

The PCG previously reported that the findings of the BRP Teresa Magbanua in Sabina Shoal confirmed China’s construction of artificial islands and extensive damage to the coral system. (PNA)