Balikatan bad for ecology, experts say
The intensified military exercises in the West Philippine Sea are threatening to disrupt the ecological system and harm the endangered species, scientists and environmentalists warned Monday.
Dr. Perry Alino, a marine scientist at the University of the Philippines and Conservation International, said the construction of military installations in the disputed Spratly islands in the area the rest of the world calls the South China Sea has degraded some of the islands and affected the population of marine wildlife.
“We cannot see sharks in the transect area anymore. There used to be a lot of sharks there. Now we only see shark nets that were left by fishermen,” Alino said. He also noted that there were reports of saltwater intrusion in some of the islands where military buildings were constructed.
Conservation International is not the only environmental group that has raised the red flag over the military activities in Philippine territories. Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment has warned that the Balikatan exercises between Philippine and US forces in Palawan could disrupt the ecology and the local communities there.
“In the past Balikatan exercises, war and combat simulations [that] involved naval maneuverings and live fire exercises have caused coral reef destruction and ecological pollution. These activities also consumed massive resources like fossil fuels and released large volumes of toxic waste into the air, land, and sea,” said Frances Quimpo, secretary general of party-list group Kalikasan.
“Ecological damage, toxic waste and live ordnance are among the dangerous effects of US military exercises on our country’s ecological health. During exercises, the military use live ammunition, employ heavy bombardment and use mammoth vehicles like tanks and ships. These have a massive ecological footprint that affects forests, mountains, and coastal areas. At the same time, these pollutive and wasteful activities endanger the safety and lives of communities near the exercise area,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., Kalikasan national coordinator.
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