By John Virata
While some countries encourage coral reef restoration in the Philippines, China destroys reefs. Approximately four square kilometers (1.5 square miles) of what once was pristine coral reef habitat has been filled with sand as China creates islands in the West Philippine Sea as part of a territory grab more than 2,000 miles off its coastline, according to a news report in the Independent.
The reefs are being destroyed systematically as China pumps sand onto the live reefs and then paves over the buried reefs with concrete, U.S. Admiral Harry Harris, Jr. told a naval security conference in Australia.
Harris said that the concern is how these fake islands will be used by China, as they could conceivably serve as military installations nearly 2,000 miles from mainland China. He also noted that what was once a beautiful series of atolls and reefs have been destroyed in just a few years time.
“How China proceeds will be a key indicator of whether the region is heading toward confrontation or cooperation,” Harris said.
Construction of these great walls of sand are occurring in the Spratly Islands, which are nearly 2,000 nautical miles from mainland China yet just 280 nautical miles from Palawan island in the Philippines. Philippine reefs are the most diverse in the world holding thousands of species of fish, corals, and other marine life. The country is also home to some of the most preeminent dive spots in the world.
China is asserting its claims to the entire South China Sea (What the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea) by building these islands, authorities say, and are destroying pristine reefs in the process. The area of dispute are in the Spratlys, which are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and China.
This article originally appeared on FishChannel.com, which was incorporated into Petcha.com