MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine Supreme Court judge has called on the government to bring China to court for violating the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with the destruction of coral reefs in a disputed part of the South China Sea.
Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte’s business-focused rapprochement with China, said the government should seek arbitration and compensation from China.
It was not clear what prompted Carpio’s call but broadcaster GMA News reported on Monday that Chinese fishermen had harvested giant clams and destroyed coral reefs in Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop, 200 km from the Philippines, claimed by both China and the Philippines.
“The Philippines should demand damages from China for the destruction of the coral reefs by Chinese fishermen in harvesting the giant clams”, Carpio said in a statement dated Tuesday.
The Philippine national security adviser confirmed the report about the Chinese activity on the resource-rich shoal which China seized in 2012. It then blocked Philippine fishermen from approaching the area.
Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the government would rather discuss the coral destruction with China than file a case as that would only “reverse our diplomatic gains”.
Relations between China and the Philippines have improved markedly under Duterte, while his ties with the United States have been strained, after he objected to U.S. concerns about rights violations in the course of his campaign against drugs.