China should pay billions of pesos to the Philippines for destroying coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Wednesday.
The senator earlier filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 804, condemning the massive coral harvesting and urging the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an inquiry into the matter.
“We should seek payment for damages caused by China in the WPS. Aabot ng bilyon-bilyon ang makukuha natin kung maoobligang magbayad ang Tsina. Ninanakawan na nga nila ng hanapbuhay ang ating mga mangingisda, winawasak pa nila ang ating likas-yaman. Kung mabayaran ng Tsina ang lahat ng utang niya sa Pilipinas, siguradong makakatulong ito sa kinakaharap nating krisis sa ekonomiya,” the senator said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines over the weekend said it had seen the effects of coral harvesting in Rozul Reef that left the seabed barren. The Philippine Coast Guard on Monday backed the military's report, adding it saw similar ecological damage at Escoda Shoal.
An international maritime expert earlier said he fears the collapse of Philippine fisheries if China's wanton destruction of coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea remains unchecked.
Dr. Deo Onda, a scientist from the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute, earlier estimated that the Philippines was losing around P33.1 billion annually from the damaged reef ecosystems in Panatag Shoal and Spratlys Islands due to China’s reclamation activities in the area.
Onda further explained that the amount was determined using a baseline value of $353,429 or P18 million per hectare per year for coral reefs based on a study conducted by Elvesier, a Dutch company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical information and analytics.
“This will not be the first time for us to seek reparations. Japan paid our country for her destruction of Manila during World War II, and in more recent history, the United States of America also paid the Philippines P87 million, after the USS Guardian damaged Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. May karapatan tayong maningil,” Hontiveros said.
She added: "Our 2016 Arbitral Award clearly invalidated China’s sweeping and expansive claims in the WPS. This is a case we won because of our dogged commitment to abide by international law and to stick with the truth. It is only right that we pursue all options to make China pay."