DENR statement on West PHL Sea coral destruction

The Philippines has worked for over 20 years on the protection of the marine environment within and beyond its territorial waters.

As it celebrated the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) Agreement by over 60 countries on September 23, 2023, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expresses grave concern over the reported destruction of coral reefs, marine ecosystems and biodiversity resources in the West Philippine Sea.

Scientific studies have established that the marine ecosystem in the Kalayaan Island Group is critical for the sustainable supply of fish and coral larvae in the Philippines and the region.

The rich biodiversity in the reefs, shoals and coasts is documented by the DENR, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute, and other partner-organizations.

We, therefore, strongly deplore any activity that leads to the damage and destruction of the coral reefs in the Kalayaan Island Group. We join the call for signatory States and their citizens to adhere to Article 192 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – to protect and preserve the marine environment.

We must not forget that the ocean regulates our world’s climate and it is the source of livelihood, food security and cultural identity of all coastal states. Coral reefs are an integral part of the beneficial functioning of the marine environment. Harmful human interference, such as the destruction and illegal exploitation of any part of our marine ecosystem is a loss, not only to our country, but to the region and to the world.

Along with its partners, the DENR continues to strive towards building capacity to protect, conserve and enhance our coastal and marine environments by investing in scientific research and infrastructure, the skills for responsive and adaptive governance and capabilities for enforcement.

DENR understands that the concerned government agencies are exploring the legal options that the country may pursue. The Department is ready to support and be guided by them on these matters.