Hontiveros urges gov’t to make China pay for environmental damage in West Philippine Sea

Hontiveros urges gov’t to make China pay for environmental damage in West Philippine Sea

(Philstar.com) – April 27, 2020 – 3:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the executive branch to exert pressure on China over its activities in the West Philippine Sea that have caused “severe and irreparable” damage in the area.

The opposition senator filed Senate Resolution 369 calling on the executive branch to exert legal and diplomatic pressure on Beijing to cease all “ecologically destructive activities” in the West Philippine Sea and pay reparations for the damage.

Hontiveros said “unlawful” Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea are estimated to have caused at least P33 billion of damage annually to marine ecosystems within the Philippines’ continental shelf and exclusive economic zone since 2013, the year that the Philippines filed its arbitration case.

“For China’s damage to our reef ecosystem for at least six years, at least P200 billion is owed to us the Filipino people,” the lawmaker said, adding that the reparations could be used to bolster the country’s efforts to address the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are not a colony so it’s about time that we have China pay,” she said in Filipino.

Hontiveros also said Beijing has taken advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the coronavirus pandemic by construction artificial islands, installations and structures in Philippine territory.

In March, while countries across the globe are busy battling the spread of the contagion, China built two research stations on Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) and Subi Reefs in Spratly Islands.

China’s state council also approved the establishment of the Paracel (Xisha) and Spratly (Nansha) in the West Philippine Sea as districts under Sansha City, the country’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Even if the Senate—the majority of which supports the Duterte administration and its foreign policy with China— adopts the resolution, it is non-binding on the executive branch.

Last week, Hontiveros said that China should shoulder the Philippine government’s expenses in responding to the health crisis. In response, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines slammed her call as “ridiculously absurd and irresponsible.”

The virus that originated in Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year has already infected over 2.9 million people worldwide and killed 206,553. In the Philippines, 7,579 have contracted COVID-19, including 501 fatalities. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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