The quiet battle for the South China Sea continues in a passive way. While the USA has told the Chinese that if there is an attack upon a Philippine coast guard ship or airplane, the USA-Philippine Defense Agreement of 1952 will be activated. America will take action.
Since 2015 or so, the Chinese have erroneously claimed that many of the atolls and islands in the South China Sea are theirs and they have acted upon some making them military bases like in Mischief Reef. They continue to enlarge them for naval vessels and aircraft. For the most part, the West and the Philippines have offered no resistance to any of this.
However, over 200+ militia type Chinese vessels remained parked in areas not yet seized by China but are interested in. These are huge trawler type fishing ships with large crews, They park in an area and fish the reefs until few fish remain and others simply remain idle. The Philippine government has protested their presence and demanded that they leave Philippine waters.
Now, satellite images reveal that these trawlers are dumping raw sewage into the coral reefs in the area destroying them with algae blooms that take oxygen. The main area targeted by the Chinese is Union Reef that is home to tuna and many other sought after fish by Philippine fisherman. At last count, 236 ships were parked in the reef area and all dumping their human waste into the water.
Environmentalists are saying that this situation is catastrophic for the coral reef life but the Philippine government has been hesitant about this latest report given to them by the U.S. President Duterte and China have just signed another agreement to develop the oil and gas that lies deep in the Philippine Sea. The region reportedly holds an estimated 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of oil.
The Philippine government seems to want it both ways with China. They protest and bark when their waters are encroached upon by Chinese vessels or outright seizure of islands in their boundary, yet, continue to sign economic deals with them to develop resources and infrastructure.