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Environmental Preservation of the South China Sea: Who Should be Responsible?

By Nadia Vong, TIME

Published: 19 Mar 2019 - 09:53 PM

Pollution in China

Pollution in China

In the second session of the ASEAN Regional Forum, many countries had shown concerns over the overexploitation and improper exploitation of resources in the region. Fishing and petroleum industries were two important economic sources of many ASEAN or Asia Pacific countries. A large portion of the resources came from the South China Sea.

Countries such as Singapore had emphasised the importance of maintaining the sustainable use of resources in the South China Sea. All delegates agreed that all had to work together to preserve the environment and biodiversity such as to repair the coral reefs. Hence, they proceeded on to the discussion about the solutions to manage environmental issues in the South China Sea.

The discussion started with delegates providing the reasons for environmental problems in the South China Sea. Singapore stated that military waste by military ships had released harmful chemicals which contributed to water pollution. Conflicts between countries also hindered them from working closely with one another in managing environmental problems which could possibly worsen the situation in the long run. Myanmar also stated that illegal fishing was one important factor that contributed to the destruction of the marine environment, hence guidelines and training should be provided to the fishermen. The guidelines included the areas of domestic fishery and proper waste management.

Brunei, one of the delegates who strongly agreed with Myanmar’s statement, proposed that an effective license should be given to legal fishermen to monitor fishery and keep down illegal fishermen. Singapore also added on that the license could be suspended if the fishermen did not abide with the guidelines. All delegates also agreed that cooperation between countries was necessary to provide patrol forces and coast guards in the region.

Other solutions proposed by China were the restriction and fine system of plastic usage as well as the usage of renewable energy. They also provided successful examples of Hong Kong in managing plastic usage and Three Gorges Dam which is one of the main power stations in China. China stated that these would be the solutions that “all countries should look into”. However, the ideas were opposed by Thailand and they highlighted that the main concern now was not to reduce waste in the future but to manage the current pollutions. Therefore, they claimed that China’s ideas were not feasible.

On the other hand, Philippines was more concerned about their domestic issues although they agreed with the measures proposed by the other delegates. Similarly, Vietnam had stated at the start of the discussion that financial insecurity was the main problem for most countries in ASEAN because the measures would affect the industries that the countries' economy largely relied on. Furthermore, manpower and resources were required to implement the measures. As a result, Philippines urged the ASEAN council to provide financial aid and economic resources for them before they were able to carry on to support the measures proposed.

Towards the end of the discussion, only Australia and South Korea expressed their willingness to provide economic resources to countries in need to manage environmental issues. They recognised that this would only solve short-term problems but the delegate from South Korea stated that “reduction is better than nothing”. The rest of the delegates did not show willingness to continue to further discuss this issue. Instead, they started to show interest in the discussion about joint-agreement and to provide funds for the improvement of the standard of coast guards which they hoped would eventually contribute to the preservation of the environment and more importantly, the management of piracy. The council is expected to continue in the next discussion about the funding towards different aspects of concerns and the outline of the resolution draft.