Thursday, April 23, 2015

BBL and Spratly: Environmental Issues Too

by Anton Antonio
April 23, 2015

Lately, I have been posting several infographics on social media (particularly Facebook) on two issues:  (1) the BBL or Bangsamoro Basic Law; and, (2) the Spratly Island group.  One of my close friends, who critically follows my blogsite (, called to say that these issues are “hardly environmental” or, at the very least, environment and natural resources management related.  I should say that, on the surface, he is right… but digging deeper will reveal some obvious connections.

The Spratly Island group is presently being contested by several ASEAN countries and the most powerful nation, China, in Asia.  The Asian Maritime Transparency department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently released satellite imagery showing the extent of the transformation of the Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) wherein China is building an airstrip.  In other islands of the Spratly’s, China is also busy building other structures from reclaimed land.  These reclamation activities being conducted by China in the West Philippine Sea has contributed greatly in increasing the tension and straining its relationships with other ASEAN-member nations primarily the Philippines and Vietnam.

Although this, on the surface, is a purely territorial-diplomatic issue, the reclamation works is definitely an environmental concern.   At present, there is little access to the Spratly disputed area since China has already established its military and naval presence aimed at protecting their land reclamation crew and equipment… this makes it difficult to accurately calculate the area and extent of coral reefs damaged by such activities.  A loose estimate is that over 300 square kilometers of coral reefs has so far been destroyed.  The Spratly Islands have traditionally been rich fishing waters only because of the marine biodiversity in the area.  Land reclamation could only result to the destruction of coral reefs and eventually the loss of marine habitat and marine life in the area which may take a lifetime to fully recovery.

“The successful extraction of palladium in the Philippines will make it the biggest producer of this commodity at 3.8 million metric tons.  The estimated revenue from palladium production in the Philippines is US$ 9.8 (or an estimated PhP 410 trillion) per year in net profit.  This will be enough to catapult Philippine economy to 1st World status.” (Antonio, 2015)  “Fossil fuel is said to be peaking (if it has not peaked yet) and alternative sources of fuel are critical.  Deuterium is a not-too-distant future hope for the Filipino people which could make the Philippines one of the richest countries in the world.”  (Antonio, 2015)  Both palladium and deuterium are suspected to be of abundance in southern Philippines.  This provides a multi-billion dollar motive for anyone to be interested in.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as crafted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), does not seem too acceptable for a lot of reasons on top of which some provisions being unconstitutional.  The peace process that also resulted to the BBL was substantially lacking since it was not participatory, inclusive and consultative.  From the reaction of some Senators and Congressmen, the BBL will only pass if the cessation-potential provisions are deleted… something not acceptable to the MILF.

More often, perceptions are more important than the actual truths.  The secessionist movement in Mindanao is perceived to be all about power and control over people, territory and resources.  The leading proponent for control of Muslim Mindanao is the MILF simply because they have the most number of arms in that island.  It is also perceived that the MILF is a satellite group sponsored and supported by a foreign country… making the MILF’s strength and existence an offshoot of foreign interest.    It is a widely accepted perception that the MILF is just a frontline group being used and exploited by some foreign country.  And the perception of a foreign country exhibiting keen interest in Mindanao could only be attributed to its desire to exploit and overexploit whatever resources that could be found there.  But can we really trust some foreign race to take care of our environment and natural resources?

With all these in the background, I still believe that the BBL and Spratly are environmental issues too.

Just my little thoughts…

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Antonio, A. C. (2015).  “Deuterium”.  Retrieved on April 23, 2015 from

Antonio, A. C. (2015). “Palladium”.  Retrieved on April 23, 2015 from

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