LETTER TO THE EDITOR
April 18, 2012
This is to clarify the issue of illegal wildlife poaching that sparked the stand-off between the Philippine and Chinese state forces in the heavily contested Scarborough Shoal. It should be clear that the problem is a concern of both the Philippine and Chinese governments, regardless of the still-unresolved issue of sovereign ownership. Both parties have a responsibility to prevent illegal poachers of marine wildlife and coral reef shailing from their countries, as both are signatories to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity or the Biodiversity Convention.
The Biodiversity Convention is an international legally binding treaty that aims for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. In the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the convention’s strategic plan for biodiversity last 2010, it was aimed to reduce by a minimum of 50 percent the rate of loss of natural habitats. It also particularly aims to promote special efforts in reducing the pressures faced by coral reefs.
Tensions have relatively eased as vessels from both parties have pulled out from the area. The next logical step is to continue the dialogue pursuing a peaceful resolution of territorial disputesbased on the UN Convention of the Laws of the Sea. Such dialogue should also beguided by the principles of the Biodiversity Convention in resolving the recent case of Scarborough, where corals, giant clams and live sharks were part of the bounty pilfered by the Chinese poachers.
We stress the accountability of both governments especially because of the conduct of the Aquino administration during this stand-off. President Benigno “noynoy” Aquino speaks of defending patrimony, but he failed to jail the Chinese poachers in an exercise of our protection of sovereignty. The government has further used this stand-off to justify the continued military exercises of US troops on Philippine soil despite its track record of dumping oil and sewage waste into waters, and firing into reefs during naval maneuversand live fire exercises.
President Aquino does not even have to look beyond Luzon to search for our patrimony under attack. As we speak, Chinese-owned mining corporations are plundering minerals along the coasts of Cagayan Valley, and are pushing for large-scale mining operations in Pampanga’s Mt. Negron.
US-owned companies are likewise pushing magnetite and large-scale mining projects respectively in Bicol and Compostela Valley. The government should have prevented these extractive and destructive projects if they are serious about the defense of our national sovereignty and the environment.
National Secretary-General, Kalikasan Partylist
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman
1100 Quezon City, Philippines