The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) lauds the move of Filipino fisherfolk and former top government officials for filing a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials for crimes against humanity.
On March 15, Filipino fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea together with former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC) a complaint over environmental damage caused by reclamation and construction of Chinese bases.
The complaint is a brave step against the continuing disregard of the Chinese government of the Philippines' claim over the West Philippine Sea, which the Duterte government fails to champion.
As we commend the Filipino fishermen who stand to be counted, PMPI also praises Carpio-Morales and Del Rosario for accompanying our Filipino fisherfolk in what may be a long and difficult fight.
This is an important pursuit not only in behalf of the fisherfolk, but also in behalf of the future generations and the protection of the marine ecosystem itself.
This does not only raise the issue of the rightful territorial claims of Filipinos in the West Philippine Sea, but also the concern over environmental destruction from the onslaught and greediness of China.
This is a bold move against China's reclamation activities, which aim to position its nine-dash-line claims destroying and damaging thousands of marine life in the process. Several countries have also staked their claim over the territory but it is only China that has done irreparable offense against the existing marine ecosystem. It is China that continuously built aggrupation of structures that damaged the pristine area.
In 2015, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, after examining the ecological impacts of the reclamation, said 311 hectares of coral reefs – five times the size of Rizal Park – have been buried. What more destruction can we expect after four years of reclamation and other illegal activities?
The loss of coral reefs will eventually result in a string of negative changes that can lead to the destruction of biodiversity, loss of marine life and pollution of transboundary waters.
As environmental defenders pressing for the recognition of the Rights of Nature in the Philippines, we stand not only for the rights of human species in the West Philippine Sea, but with other species living in this ocean ecosystem being threatened by possible extinction.
We support the effort of Del Rosario, Carpio-Morales and the fishermen as we pray that other political leaders see the truth and join in the pursuit for justice for our fisherfolk and the environment.
We put high hopes to the ICC to impartially investigate the extent of environmental destruction done by China, not only in the West Philippine Sea, but in the whole of South China Sea.
We ask our government leaders especially President Rodrigo Duterte to stand up for the nation and claim what is rightfully ours.
Let us not be cowed into submission or to the bullying of China. Let us not be overwhelmed and be silenced by the scheming world super power. We can be a David battling Goliath.