By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINES has lost 3.6 million kilograms of fish due to the presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea, according to estimates from food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan.

This volume is higher than the 240,000 kilos previously estimated by the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea in April, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis G. Perez said in a virtual briefing on Monday.

Mr. Perez said the country stands to further lose 7.2 million kilograms of fish for each month that the Chinese vessels are allowed to stay in the area.

“If we look at even half the market price of this commodity today, then we are bound to lose P720 million a month,” he said.

Mr. Perez asked the government not to downplay the importance of fish products sourced from the West Philippine Sea.

He said that if the area is managed well and limited to Filipino use, it can provide more than the government’s current estimate of 7% volume catch equivalent to P19.1 billion.

Mr. Perez also raised concerns on the destruction of coral reef ecosystems in the Spratly Islands caused by China’s reclamation and dredging activities.

“Studies have shown that the area’s coral reef ecosystem plays an important role as spawning and nursery grounds, egg and larval dispersal of economically important species not only for the West Philippine Sea area but the entire South China Sea and even Pacific Ocean,” he said.

“Clearly, the illegal Chinese activities in the area are detrimental not only for Filipino fishermen. Their actions affect the food security of the entire South China Sea Region. It is just and proper for all citizens to voice out their concern about the current situation,” he added.

The Philippines has filed several diplomatic protests against China after Chinese vessels including six warships were seen within its waters in the South China Sea.

An international tribunal issued a ruling in July 2016 that rejected China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea. However, reports have shown increasing Chinese maritime presence in the area, including the construction of artificial islands.