Photo: Senator Risa Hontiveros / FB

The Chinese embassy yesterday slammed Senator Risa Hontiveros for seeking reparations over the ecological damage that Beijing left at the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, said in a statement yesterday that China owes the Philippines at least PHP200 billion (US$3.9 billion) for destroying the coral reefs at the disputed area, which was caused by the military outposts that Beijing has constructed over the past several years. She said this amount could be used to improve the Philippines’ healthcare system and help families struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“China should stop its adventurism in the region and pay reparations to the Philippines immediately,” Hontiveros said. “Our government already has a huge budget deficit because of COVID-19. Thus, it should demand what is rightfully ours and use this to strengthen our health system, to increase the aid given to low- and middle-income families, and to help Filipinos recover post-COVID.”

The Chinese embassy did not take kindly to the senator’s remarks. In a statement, the embassy said without referring to Hontiveros, that Beijing and Manila are working closely together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It also accused the lawmaker of having a personal agenda by asking for reparations.

“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,” the embassy said.

“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,” it added.

Hontiveros was not fazed by the embassy’s criticism, however. She pointed out today that China continues to reject the Philippines’ sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, which she described as “more absurd and irresponsible.”

China reportedly declared the West Philippine Sea as part of Hainan province, despite a 2016 decision by a Netherlands court that invalidated Beijing’s claims over the area.

She maintained that China has to pay the Philippines at least PHP200 billion in reparations.

“The payment of these reparations is crucial and can be channeled to health and economic assistance to the Filipino people, in the middle of a global pandemic,” she said.

“China cannot claim to be a friendly ‘neighbor across the sea’ when it has continued its land reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea. Friends help each other out, not occupy their islands and destroy their reefs,” she added.

This article was originally published by Coconuts. Read the article here.