Five years ago, the Philippines won its case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration that awarded the Philippines sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
“The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the seas falling within the “nine-dash line,” the statement released to the media in 2016 said.
While some Filipinos celebrated the landmark decision that could’ve given our country more leverage against the aggressive expansion of China, there were those who wasted almost five years by treating the ruling as nothing but a useless piece of waste paper.
As our own government sidelined and downplayed the Hague ruling, China continued its bullying ways in our waters, building artificial islands and deploying hundreds, if not thousands of maritime vessels to harass our fishermen and essentially limit access to territory that was awarded to the Philippines.
This week, as some Filipinos celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the landmark ruling, we were treated to news that hundreds of Chinese vessels have been found to dump hundreds of tons of waste during their prolonged stay in the West Philippine Sea.
Liz Derr, co-founder and CEO of US geospatial firm Simularity, relayed in a forum hosted by Stratbase ADR Institute that hundreds of ships have dumped waste in the area – including human poop. “When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” Derr noted.
As Filipinos were outraged by the revelation, with legislators demanding an investigation, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who initially questioned how Simularity was able to conclude that human waste was being dumped into the area by merely looking at satellite images, said he has ordered the Western Command to verify and investigate the matter.
The environmental damage to our reefs and fisheries caused by China’s occupation of territory that the international tribunal has confirmed belongs to us is already massive because of their island-building and illegal fishing activities. The hundreds of tons of human waste they are literally dumping into our backyard add to the damage and rubs poop on our wound.
What will it take for our government that hasn’t done much over the past five years to defend our territory and interests to finally spring into action? Or is it ok for China to transform our West Philippine Sea into its Waste Philippine Sea?*