Hontiveros to gov’t: Make China pay for damaged reefs, continued activity in WPS
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday filed a resolution urging the Duterte administration to “exert legal and diplomatic pressure” upon China to end its activities in the West Philippine Sea and to pay reparation for the damage it caused to the country’s reefs.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 369, Hontiveros said: “China’s sense of entitlement to our seas has caused severe and irreparable harm to our ecosystems.”
“Hindi tayo kolonya, kaya panahon nang singilin ng gobyerno ang Tsina,” she said in a statement, citing the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that China “had breached its obligations with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights over its continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.”
“The PCA also found that, with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine environment, China was aware of, tolerated, protected, and failed to prevent its fishermen from engaging in the harvesting giant clams in a manner severely destructive of coral reef ecosystems,” the resolution read.
It noted that China’s continued activities in the West Philippine Sea caused an estimated P33-billion worth of damage annually.
Hontiveros said this estimate was based on a 2012 study published in the international journal Ecosystem Services which pegs the value per hectare of a coral reef at $353,429 (P18 million).
Damage to reef ecosystems in Panatag and Spratly Islands due to China’s reclamation activities is at 1,850 hectares, she noted.
“For China’s damage to our reef ecosystems for at least 6 years, at least 200 billion pesos is owed to the Filipino people,” the senator said.
“If China pays the reparations owed to us, we can further improve our COVID-19 response and help more Filipinos against the disease,” she added.
Hontiveros also claimed that China has taken advantage of the current global pandemic to further its agenda in the region.
“China has taken advantage of this global chaos by constructing artificial islands, installations, and structures in our own territory. This aggression must stop immediately,” she said.
“I urge the government to put Filipinos’ interest first. Mga Pilipino muna, bago ang feelings ng China [Filipinos first before the feelings of China],” she added.
Hontiveros filed the resolution nearly a week after she demanded that the Chinese government “foot the bill” for the Philippines’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic by paying more than P200 billion over the destruction of Philippine reefs.
Responding to Hontiveros’ remarks, the Chinese Embassy in Manila slammed the senator’s calls and branded it as “ridiculously absurd” and “irresponsible.”
The embassy pointed out that it has been providing assistance to the Philippines in its fight against the pandemic.
It also insisted that Manila and Beijing “are friendly neighbors across the sea.”
But Hontiveros said China cannot make such claims “when it has continued its land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.”
“Friends help each other out, not occupy their islands and destroy their reefs,” she said in a statement last week.
On April 22, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged two diplomatic protests against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
“…(T)he Chinese Embassy received two diplomatic protests: 1. on the pointing of a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in PH waters and 2. declaring parts of a Philippine territory as part of Hainan province,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said over Twitter.
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