China, Philippines Spar Over Coral Damage in Disputed Waters

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines and China have traded accusations of destroying marine environment in the South China Sea, opening a new front in their dispute over the vital waterway.

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Manila on Tuesday rebuffed China’s claim that a World War II-era warship that the Philippines deliberately grounded in 1999 has gravely damaged the coral reef ecosystem in the area. The ship serves as a Philippine military outpost at Second Thomas Shoal, the site of recent clashes with China.

“It is China that has caused untold damage to the maritime environment, and jeopardized the natural habitat and the livelihood of thousands of Filipino fisherfolk,” the Philippine task force on the sea dispute said in a statement.

Manila was reacting to reported findings of an April survey by China’s Ministry of Natural Resources and other institutions on how the grounding of the Philippine ship, along with its corrosion and waste material, has inflicted damage on the coral reef ecosystem around area.

The latest exchange of accusations comes as the Philippines is trying to build an environmental case against China over Manila’s findings of severe coral damage in South China Sea shoals. A new case could further strain ties between the two nations that agreed earlier this month to defuse tensions.

The Philippines also said Tuesday that it is China’s reclamation in parts of the South China Sea that has harmed coral habitat. China has built artificial islands in contested waters and has nearly 30 outposts in the area, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

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