'Insincere, hypocritical': Teodoro on China's denial of WPS reef destruction

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — To Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, China's statement denying involvement in the destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) showed the eastern superpower's insincerity and hypocrisy.

"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! China continues to damage the WPS by its illegal reclamation activities in the SCS (South China Sea) and it was found to be a violator of international law in the 2016 Arbitral Award when such activities damaged the marine environment," Teodoro said Saturday.

The Philippines earlier this month accused China of harvesting and destroying the corals in Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal in the WPS after its militia vessels were spotted lingering in the contested waters.

In response, China said the accusations had no factual basis and were an attempt to create political drama from fiction. Teodoro said Beijing's claim is propaganda.

READ: 'Political drama from fiction': China denies damaging coral reefs in West PH Sea

"Disingenuous propaganda lines such as this only serve to expose China's insincerity and will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese Government," the defense chief said.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal recently told CNN Philippines' The Final Word that Manila had a strong case against Beijing, as some local fishermen had been reporting China's coral harvesting activities since 2015.

China, in its statement, also accused the Philippines of causing ecological damage in the West Philippine Sea because of the BRP Sierra Madre -- a World War II-era ship deliberately grounded in Ayungin Shoal to serve as a military outpost in the disputed maritime zone.

"The statement of China that the grounded Sierra Madre is causing irrevocable harm is to put it as politely as possible--hypocritical," Teodoro added.

Some Chinese diplomats earlier claimed that the Philippines had agreed to remove the base during the administrations of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada.

Former commander-in-chief Arroyo herself and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito, the sons of Joseph Estrada, all have denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General are looking into the possibility of suing China and raising its alleged destruction of marine habitats to the Permanent Court of Arbitration.