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PCG: Another shoal ruined by reclamation

MANILA, Philippines — China has dumped crushed corals in Escoda Shoal off Palawan province in another island reclamation activity within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which prompted the deployment of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)’s biggest vessel in the area.

Commodore Jay Tarriela, the PCG’s spokesman for the West Philippine Sea (WPS) Transparency Office, revealed yesterday the poor state of Escoda Shoal, also known as Sabina Shoal, which is just 75 nautical miles off Palawan.

Sharing presentation slides and videos of their survey of the shoal last April 18, Tarriela showed at a news forum the destruction of marine resources resulting from China’s reclamation activity.

Tarriela said China is solely to blame for the incident, noting that there were at least 34 Chinese maritime militia vessels around Escoda Shoal. The figure does not include four ships from the China Coast Guard (CCG) and three Chinese research vessels that were also in the area.

The official sounded the alarm on the risk to the country’s security due to its
proximity to Palawan.

“I don’t want to speculate or alarm the public but for me this is the closest, which is why it’s very alarming,” Tarriela said.

He said they have yet to determine how long China has been conducting its reclamation activity in Escoda Shoal.

The University of the Philippines Institute of Biology had earlier reported that Pag-asa Cay, a group of sand bars off Pag-asa Island, is in a degraded state because of reclamation activities, which the government also blamed on China.

To deter China’s activities, the PCG deployed the 97-meter BRP Teresa Magbanua to Escoda Shoal and which has stayed in the area for 26 days as of Saturday.

The PCG also sent two 44-meter vessels, the BRP Cabra and BRP Malabrigo, for a rotational deployment from Escoda Shoal to Rozul Reef.

Tarriela said a Chinese Navy helicopter has been restricting the PCG in monitoring activities in the shoal, an indication that China is hiding their activities.

Since PCG deployed their vessels, Tarriela said China has stopped its activities in the shoal, which showed the country is not helpless in defending its territory.

“The Philippine Coast Guard