The Chinese government should pay compensation for the reef ecosystems damaged mainly by its reclamation activities in the disputed waters, a fisherfolk group said Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) made this call in reaction to President Duterte’s demand to the United States (US) government to pay $16 billion for hosting American forces and for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“China should be compelled to pay billions of dollars remuneration for at least 1,850 hectares of damaged coral reefs caused by its reclamation activities, and for the back rent for the years of illegal occupation of sea features in the West Philippine Sea, in the same way that President Duterte demands the United States to pay $16 billion for hosting its troops in the country,” said Pamalakaya.
Citing the study of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), Pamalakaya said China’s damage to the West Philippine Sea reefs costs about P33.1 billion annually.
“China is accountable for the large-scale devastation of our marine resources in the West Philippine Sea,” said Jerwin Baure, a marine scientist from the group AGHAM and Pamalakaya’s resident fisheries expert.
“And yet the Duterte government is exerting lots of energy to collect American dollars that is actually far from the framework of upholding our national sovereignty,” he continued.
The fishers’ group has also renewed its call for the termination of the VFA and other “one-sided” military agreements with the US, as it demanded for China’s accountability for aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
“It’s an utterly misplaced concern for the Duterte government to demand money to US while completely silent and dysfunctional about China’s rampant destruction and militarization of the West Philippine Sea,” said Pamalakaya National Chairperson Fernando Hicap.