A PHILIPPINE senator has filed a resolution seeking to investigate increased presence of Chinese dredging vessels near Zambales province, saying these threaten the local marine ecosystem.

Senate Resolution 966, which Senator Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada filed on Wednesday, calls for a comprehensive probe of the dredging of at least 14 Chinese vessels that were spotted in the province a week ago.

“The ongoing dredging activities may disturb the overall balance of the ecosystem,” he said in a statement. “We must take into consideration the long-term effects of these actions. Our natural resources need to be protected.”

“Our top priorities should be protecting our sovereignty, ensuring the well-being of our environment and promoting the welfare of our people,” he added.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

Based on the resolution, the dredging was being carried out by state-owned China Harbour Engineering Co.

The Senate should look into whether the Chinese workers operating the vessels are properly documented and authorized to conduct dredging in the province.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a December study that China’s dredging and giant clam harvesting have damaged at least 21,000 acres of coral reefs in the South China Sea.

The Chinese Embassy has questioned the study’s results, saying it only relied on satellite imagery.

“The increased presence of Chinese dredging vessels operating in Zambales province is a matter of serious concern,” Mr. Estrada said. “The activities that are happening could have a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Zambales who rely on fishing.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez