China owes Filipinos over ₱800B in marine damage, losses - Hontiveros

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — The Chinese government's debt to the country now stands at more than ₱800 billion amid its aggressive moves in the West Philippine Sea, a lawmaker claimed on Thursday.

In a statement, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said China's debt has now ballooned to over ₱800 billion in marine losses due to its continuous "adventurism" in the maritime region, despite an arbitral tribunal favoring the Philippines in a case against China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

READ: PH wins maritime arbitration case vs. China

"Time to pay up. Dati nang umayaw ang Chinese Embassy nang naningil tayo ng mahigit sa ₱200 billion dahil sa paninira ng Tsina sa WPS mula 2013. Pero ngayon, umabot na sa higit ₱800 bilyon ang halaga ng paninira nila sa ating likas-yaman, kaya patuloy ang ating pangangalampag," she said.

[Translation: The Chinese Embassy refused to pay when we charged China more than ₱200 billion for destroying resources at WPS since 2013. But now, the cost of damage to our natural resources has reached more than ₱800 billion, so we will continue to pressure them.]

Based on data from the international journal Ecosystem Services last year, Hontiveros said some ₱231 billion worth of coral reefs were ruined in a span of seven years. The value per coral reef, she noted, was estimated at ₱16 million. Both Panatag and Spratlys have 1,850 hectares of reef ecosystems, which "have been damaged" by China, she added.

READ: Satellite images show China construction on West PH Sea reef amid pandemic

Citing a report from investigative journalist Jarius Bondoc, Hontiveros said a total of ₱644 billion worth of fish catch has been looted since 2014.

"He arrived at the number by multiplying the 1.2 million tons of fish that are usually caught by Chinese vessels in Zamora and Panganiban reefs annually, with Seafdec’s estimated value per ton of fish catch in the South China Sea at ₱76,710," the senator said.

Hontiveros earlier filed Senate Resolution 369 to demand that China pay the ₱200 billion worth of reparations, which could be used in the country's fight against COVID-19 . She said the amount should be updated now to include the recent computations.

Aside from demanding payment, Hontiveros said the Philippine government should act on China's continued harassment of Filipino fishermen.

"Let’s not allow China to get away with this," she said.