Philippine court orders government to protect South China Sea

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (DPA) - The Philippine Supreme Court has issued an order directing the government to "protect, preserve, rehabilitate and to restore" the marine environment in three areas the country claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The writ of kalikasan (nature) issued on Friday (May 3) covers Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal and Mischief Reef.

The order was prompted by a petition filed by environmental activists and fishermen alleging the Philippine government has failed to act against Chinese incursions and destructive activities in the three areas.

"The Supreme Court, in a special en banc session held on Friday, issued a writ of kalikasan to protect, preserve, rehabilitate, and to restore the marine environment in Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag Shoal), Ayungin Shoal, and Panganiban Reef (also known as Mischief Reef)," a court statement said.

Among the government agencies named in the directive were the Department of Environment and Natural Resource, the Department of Agriculture, the Philipine Navy, the Coast Guard, the national police and the Department of Justice.

There was no immediate reaction from the government on the order.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources. Other claimants are the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

In 2016, an international tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing has no legal or historical basis for its so-called "nine-dash line", which demarcates its claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.