CIVILIAN VESSELS on a symbolic mission to assert the Philippines’ claim to Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) in the South China Sea were blocked by a Chinese Coast Guard ship while a Philippine Coast Guard vessel kept watch on May 16, 2024. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

MANILA – The Philippines challenged China on Monday to open Scarborough Shoal to international scrutiny after it accused Beijing of destroying the shoal’s marine environment.

“We are alarmed and worried about the situation that’s happening there,” National Security Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya told a press conference.

Mr. Malaya said there was a growing consensus within the Philippine government on the need to file a case against China over the destruction of coral reefs, including the harvesting of endangered giant clams, in the South China Sea.

The Philippines secured a landmark victory in 2016 a case against China that concluded Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea had no basis under international law.

China, which has refused to recognise the 2016 ruling and has chafed at repeated mention of the case by Western powers, has repeatedly denied the claims of destruction of coral reefs.

“If you really believe in what you’re saying, open up Bajo de Masinloc to international scrutiny, it has to be a third party,” Mr. Malaya said.

Manila refers to Scarborough Shoal as the Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal. — Reuters