Sun, Jun 21, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Island-building projects ecologically safe: China

SOUTH CHINA SEA:Manila said that Chinese construction destroyed 121 hectares of coral reef and caused about US$100 million in yearly losses

Reuters, BEIJING

China’s construction on disputed reefs in the South China Sea will not destroy ocean ecology, the country’s maritime regulator said amid complaints from the Philippines that the work is damaging coral in the area.

Beijing’s rapid land reclamation work around seven reefs in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) has alarmed other claimants, such as Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam, and prompted growing criticism from the US government.

Manila in April said that China’s construction had destroyed about 121.4 hectares of coral reef and caused estimated annual losses of US$100 million to coastal nations.

“The Nansha expansion project highly emphasizes environmental protection,” China’s State Oceanic Administration said in a statement on its Web site late on Thursday, which was covered widely in Chinese media on Friday.

Numerous protection measures, including the use of a “new type” of dredging technique, had been implemented during planning and construction and had achieved good results, the administration said.

“Impact on coral reef ecology is localized, temporary, controllable and restorable,” it said.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, among others, also have overlapping claims.

China stepped up its creation of artificial islands last year and there have been recent tensions between the Chinese navy and the US military around the Spratly archipelago.

Beijing said last week that some of its island construction would be completed soon, but that it would continue to build facilities which it said would help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and environmental protection.

Washington has repeatedly asked China to halt its island-building, fearing that a militarization of the territorial disputes could threaten regional stability.

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