MANILA - The Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Wednesday criticized Sen. Risa Hontiveros' call that China should foot the bill for the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Philippines.
"China and the Philippine are working closely to fight the common threat of the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.
"At this trying time, it is ridiculously absurd and irresponsible to make such remarks for the sole purpose of catching eyeballs and for selfish political gains," it added.
Hontiveros earlier said China should shoulder the Philippine government's expenses in responding to the COVID-19 crisis as compensation for destroying Philippine reefs in the disputed South China Sea.
The West Philippine Sea is the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
"The government already has a huge budget deficit because of COVID-19. China's ongoing disregard for our own resources will worsen our economic standing," Hontiveros said in a statement.
"The government should demand what is rightfully ours and use this to help the Filipino people battle COVID-19," she said.
The Chinese embassy rebuffed Hontiveros' remarks, claiming that "China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors across the sea."
"China will continue to provide our support and assistance to the best of our ability to the Philippines, and stand together with the Philippine government and people to jointly tackle the challenges and tide over the difficulties," its spokesperson added.
To support the Philippines' efforts in fighting COVID-19, the Chinese government said it has donated 300,000 surgical masks, 30,000 medical N95 masks, 5,000 medical protective suits, 5,000 medical face shields, and 30 non-invasive ventilators.
It has also dispatched a team of Chinese medical experts to assist the Philippines' response to the crisis. Most of them had frontline experience in Hubei, the Chinese province in the epicenter of pandemic.
"Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Philippines in early March, China has been providing support and assistance to the Philippines to the best of its ability," Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian earlier said.
"Besides the Chinese central government, Chinese local governments, organizations, companies and individuals have also extended a helping hand with huge amount of donations to the Philippine government and people," he added.