China rates Beijing-controlled Scarborough Shoal as healthy in second reef report

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A Chinese investigation into conditions at sea Scarborough Sandbank found the area in good health – in stark contrast to an earlier assessment this week by Second Thomas Shoal, another flashpoint between Manila and Beijing in the South Chinese Ocean.

According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, a “comprehensive” study of the ecological environment of Scarborough Shoal, better known as Hanyang Island in China, has found that the water quality is “excellent”.

Scarborough Shoal is claimed by both Beijing and Manila and has been under Chinese de facto control since a violent clash in 2012. Since then, Filipino fishermen have been denied access to the lagoon by the Chinese coast guard.

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The results of the latest research were revealed on Wednesday during a briefing by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The research team was formed from three agencies of the ministry.

The team conducted a “systematic on-site survey” from May to June, examining seawater quality, biological quality and marine debris, as well as coral communities. Satellite remote sensing technology was also used in the analysis, CCTV said.

It was found that contaminant residues were below assessment standards, that the coral reef ecosystem was “healthy,” and that the diversity of reef-forming coral species was “rich.”

According to the CCTV report, this is the first time that a Chinese research team has determined the levels of marine debris around Scarborough Shoal and the status of reef fish living there.

The positive findings contrast with a report released Monday by the Department of Natural Resources, which said a grounding of a Philippine warship at another disputed shoal had caused “severe damage to the diversity, stability and sustainability of the coral reef ecosystems.”

The earlier report found that the BRP Sierra Madre, which was grounded by the Philippines in 1999 to serve as an outpost in the disputed waters, had caused severe damage at Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Renai Reef in China and Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, and that the vessel had to be removed to stop the damage.

Chief scientist Xiong Xiaofei of the South China Sea Ecological Center, which operates under the auspices of the ministry, told state media that “only by eliminating the source of the pollution can we prevent continued and cumulative damage to the Renai Reef ecosystem”.

The Chinese assessment – ​​based on satellite technology and on-site surveys from April to June – revealed severe destruction of coral cover, heavy metal contamination, and active phosphate and oil pollution at Second Thomas Shoal.

According to the report, pollutants were found particularly in the waters around the Sierra Madre, including human waste such as fishing nets.

Manila on Tuesday rejected the accusation, He accused “Chinese experts” of spreading disinformation and called for an independent, scientific assessment of the causes of the damage to coral reefs in the South China Sea.

In response to the Philippines’ statement on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian called on Manila to withdraw the grounded warship, saying it was the “main factor” that led to the destruction of the coral reef ecosystem around Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines has previously indicated that it intends to file a formal complaint against the Chinese government, citing damage to coral in various parts of the South China Sea.

The Chinese reports come amid heightened tensions between the two countries over the South China Sea, which is almost entirely claimed by Beijing, with overlapping claims by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Beijing and Manila have clashed several times over the past year over supplies to the Sierra Madre outpost in the Philippines.

One of the most serious clashes occurred on June 17, when a Chinese coast guard ship rammed a Philippine supply ship, injuring eight Filipino sailors. including one who lost his thumbaccording to Manila.

China has rejected the Philippines’ story, saying the Philippine ships attacked Chinese boats.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP)the most authoritative voice covering China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook And Twitter pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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