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Ex-SC justice wants environmental damage suit filed vs. China

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DUMAGUETE CITY: Former Supreme Court (SC) justice Francis Jardeleza on Sunday said now is the time for the Philippine government to file an environmental damage suit against China before the issue over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is overtaken by the 2025 midterm elections. Speaking at the 111th Commencement Exercises of Silliman University in this capital city, Jardeleza is optimistic that the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will take concrete steps in protecting the country's territory, being the 'chief architect of the foreign policy.' He stressed that the President is on 'the right track' and just needed to be convinced to file or pursue another case against China, this time regarding the damage allegedly caused at the WPS as diplomatic solutions may not be enough to stop or counter the escalation aggression. 'The President is on the right track. He is cultivating the Americans for the Mutual Defense Treaty, all of the allies in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), t he Europeans, and so we are gaining ground,' Jardeleza said. Jardeleza was solicitor general from 2012 to 2014 under the term of the late president Benigno Aquino III and was head of the Philippine legal team that handled the South China Sea arbitration. He urged thousands of students and faculty members who attended the exercises to support calls to file an environmental damage suit against China for its continued aggression and provocations against Filipinos in the WPS, despite a 2016 ruling on the territorial jurisdiction case in favor of the Philippines. Jardeleza pointed out that Silliman University has plenty of researchers and experts on environment who could help gather the evidence in the filing of another case against China. By filing an environmental damage suit against China, the Philippines could claim millions or billions of pesos to equip and fund the government to protect the West Philippine Sea, Jardeleza said. The encroachment on the Philippines' exclusive economic zone has destroyed th ousands of hectares of 'irreplaceable marine life' which deprives Filipinos dependent on the West Philippine Sea for their income and livelihood, he added. The National Security Council had already challenged China to allow third-party inspectors to check on the current condition of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) following the Chinese Foreign Ministry's denial of reports of environmental destruction despite proof presented by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). "In the face of China's repeated denials, we call on China to open up Bajo de Masinloc to international inspection and we also call on third-party inspectors from relevant United Nations bodies or respected environmental organizations to determine the true situation therein in order to protect the environment," NSC Assistant Director General and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in a statement on May 21. "The PCG has presented clear and convincing evidence that since 2016, it has observed Chinese fishermen transporting large quantities of giant clams, sea turtles, puffer fishes, stingrays, top shells, eels, and other marine animals. Chinese entities have been continuously engaged in large-scale harvesting of endangered species, unlawfully exploiting the vulnerable species with wild abandon." Source: Philippines News Agency