Philippines challenges China to open Scarborough shoal for international inspection

The Philippines challenged China on Monday to allow international scrutiny of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, according to the Philippines’ official news agency. The call was made during a press conference headed by the National Security Council (NSC) assistant director general, Jonathan Malaya, and Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Jay Tarriela. They accused China of destroying the marine environment around the shoal, including coral reefs.

Malaya said during the press conference:

In the face of China’s repeated denials, we call on China to open up Bajo de Masinloc to international inspection and we also call on third-party inspectors from relevant United Nations bodies or respected environmental organizations to determine the true situation therein in order to protect the environment

The accusation by the Philippines was made according to “incontrovertible proof” provided by PCG which includes evidence of the transportation of harvested giant clams, a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and other marine animals from the Scarborough Shoal. Moreover, China has also allegedly been scouring the seabed in search of more giant clams, detrimental to the life of surrounding coral reefs. 

The Permanent Court of Arbitration previously rejected Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea in 2016, saying the claims made by China had no legal basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The international court also concluded China caused “irreparable harm” to the marine environment of the South China Sea through its conduct.