Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio announced this week that his court had sufficient evidence to conclude China had destroyed 17 reefs near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and had begun work dredging ten other reefs to build artificial islands in international waters.
“China occupies seven reefs in the Spratlys. It is reclaiming on all seven reefs. Although it occupies seven reefs, it is using filling materials from 10 other reefs so China has actually destroyed 17 reefs in total,” Justice Carpio said on Wednesday. Justice Carpio, who is working to bring United Nations attention to the Chinese “reclamation” project in the South China Sea, which has usurped significant territory considered Philippine, Vietnamese, and international, noted that China’s military presence has allowed for the destruction to continue nearly unabated.
Justice Carpio’s complaint follows protests from the neighboring Vietnamese government that Chinese naval drills near Vietnam’s Paracel Islands are destroying significant wildlife in the area. A complaint from the Vietnamese government on Monday led to China escalating to live-fire drills that, according to Vice, “involved at least 100 naval vessels and dozens of aircraft, and during which thousands of shells and dozens of missiles and torpedoes were fired.”
China has been constructing artificial islands for military use, conducting naval drills, and accosting civilian fishing vessels in the South China Sea for the past year. In early June, the Chinese government announced that it would “soon” end reclamation projects in the region, without giving a timeline or defining what the end of those projects would mean.
The Chinese government has not discussed the allegations made in the Philippines, instead attacking the United States for “militarizing” the South China Sea.
“China is extremely concerned at the United States’ pushing of the militarization of the South China Sea region… What they are doing can’t help but make people wonder whether they want nothing better than chaos,” said Defense Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujun on Thursday. The United States has engaged in minor surveillance missions and joint military work with the Philippines and Vietnam.
The statements from the Chinese government echo sentiments published in Chinese media in May that war between China and the United States is “inevitable” over the South China Sea.
While the United States has engaged in no activity further than surveillance missions in the region, there is significant satellite evidence of China’s destruction of the region’s ecosystems. The international environmentalist community has been deafeningly silent, however, regarding China’s destruction. A search for “South China Sea” on the international Greenpeace website yields no relevant results, nor a similar search on Conservation International’s website. The Environmental Defense Fund actually praised China for alleged green initiatives.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has compared the Chinese missions in the South China Sea to Nazi Germany’s behavior in the Sudetenland before World War II.