Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Monday expressed outrage over the destruction of the marine ecosystem in the West Philippine Sea, saying the continued intrusion of Chinese vessels into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone threatens global food security.
Zubiri was referring to the reported damage to coral reefs in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, where dozens of Chinese maritime militia vessels have been seen roaming illegally.
“This is a wanton destruction of our future food security areas. I am really angry with what they are doing. We are appealing to the Chinese embassy here in the Philippines to tell their militia vessels to put a stop on this wanton destruction,” Zubiri said.
“This is not a destruction only on the Philippine side, but for the whole world. It’s for the whole world because the species of fish that breed there are not only being harvested by Filipino fishermen, but also harvested by Malaysian fishermen, Vietnamese fishermen, even Chinese fishermen,” he pointed out.
“So it is for the good of the world if our coral reefs are protected. That’s why I’m really very mad,” he added.
To safeguard the country’s marine resources in the West Philippine Sea, Zubiri said the Senate is working closely with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources in setting up marine ranger stations in key coastal areas nationwide.
The Senate leader said he has already spoken with Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on finance, to earmark P600 million for the initiative.
He also vowed to fight for bigger allotments for the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy in the national budget for 2024 to help them in purchasing additional partial boats and other equipment.
“This budget is a critical budget. This is the time that we have to put our money where our mouth is. This is the time that we need to increase the budget for ships, patrol crafts and marine research centers,” Zubiri said.
Under the proposed P5.768-trillion National Expenditure Plan for 2024, the PCG has been allocated with P24.014 billion, an increase of nearly 10 percent from its allotment of P21.92 billion this year.
On the other hand, P40.97 billion has been set aside for the Navy, up from its current budget of P34.98 billion.
The Senate President also suspected that the destruction of the shoal’s seabed could be in preparation for reclamation activities in the area.
“It’s possible. That has been their guidebook and playbook since the beginning where they want to destroy an area first and then they reclaim it. That’s why we have to remain vigilant,” he said.