MANILA — Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro on Saturday described China as "insincere" and a "hypocrite" after the Asian power said the grounded BRP Sierra Madre is causing environmental problems in the West Philippine Sea.
A spokesperson for the China's foreign ministry recently said if the Philippines is really concerned about the environment, then its should remove BRP Sierra Madre, which it said is an "illegally grounded warship."
Teodoro, however, said it was China that continues to damage the environment in the South China Sea due to its illegal reclamation activities.
"The statement of China that the grounded Sierra Madre is causing irrevocable harm is to put it as politely as possible — hypocritical," said the defense chief.
"China was found to be a violator of international law in the 2016 Arbitral Award when such activities damaged the marine environment," he added.
What Beijing continued to do, he said, was spread "disingenuous propaganda lies" that only exposes their "insincerity."
"[It] will only heighten the mistrust by the Filipino people and the rest of the world of the Chinese Government," he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines last week 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.
The justice department, for its part, said the Philippine government may again file a complaint against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration due to alleged violations of environmental laws in the West Philippine Sea.
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.