CORON, Palawan - The Philippines and Vietnam would be the first countries to bear the environmental impact of China's reclamation in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a national scientist said.
Former environment secretary Angel Alcala said China's construction projects could result in biodiversity loss and affect fish supply in the long term.
He noted that the Philippines and Vietnam - two of China's rival claimants in West Philippine Sea - are the countries nearest the China construction projects.
"The impact will be reduced biodiversity," Alcala said during the United States Embassy Seminar for Regional Media.
"I'm wondering why Chinese scientists do not point this out," he added
Alcala explained that the reclamation would disrupt the distribution of larvae or developed fish eggs.
"The atolls are very important in the West Philippine Sea because they are actually concentrations and in the center of the atolls are the lagoons and the lagoons have the fishes and the larvae of the fish," Alcala said.
He said the larvae are transported to different countries through currents.
"If you completely enclose the lagoon with roads or airplanes, you reduce the probability of larvae from escaping from inside the lagoons," the former environment chief said.
Alcala said the disruption would put a dent on fish supply since the larvae cannot develop into adult fishes.
"The Philippines and Vietnam (will first feel the impact) including Palawan and (other parts of) Luzon," the former environment chief said.
China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
To assert its expansive claim, China is embarking on a massive reclamation program in disputed areas including those being claimed by the Philippines.
Chinese construction projects are rapidly progressing in Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs.
Alcala said China's activities would eventually disrupt the livelihood of coastal communites. He said the world should "force" China to stop the construction efforts.
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has said China's projects are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the West Philippine Sea.
DFA said the reclamation has destroyed 300 acres of coral reef systems and has led to annual economic losses worth $100 million.
Members of the international community, including the industrialized countries who constitute the G7, have opposed the reclamation and have called for rules-based order in the West Philippine Sea.
China, however, has been unfazed by the criticisms and insists that the construction projects are being conducted in its territory.