Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) — The Chinese Embassy on Wednesday blasted a Filipina senator for demanding that China pay the Philippines’ expenses in battling COVID-19 as a reparation for destroying the reefs at West Philippine Sea.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said China owes the country some ₱200 billion for “at least six year’s” worth of environmental damages.
Hontiveros cited the breakdown of costs reported by the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute, which states that the destruction to the reefs in Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands is equivalent to at least ₱33.1 billion in annual losses. This is reportedly on top of other economic and health costs.
The senator added that the compensation should be used to fund efforts against the coronavirus disease and extend aid to affected families.
“The government should demand what is rightfully ours and use this to help the Filipino people battle COVID-19,” she said.
The Chinese embassy, in response, reduced the senator’s call to a “selfish political” tactic.
“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 said, adding that the two countries are “friendly neighbors across the sea.”
The West Philippine Sea are areas that the Philippines claims and occupies in the disputed South China Sea. While an international arbitration has already favored Manila by concluding China has no claims to the bulk of the global waterway, Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to ignore the ruling.
‘Demand unpaid taxes from POGOs’
Apart from compensation for marine environmental damages, Hontiveros also said the government should demand the ₱50 billion unpaid taxes from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
She also urged the government to reassess its decision to allow POGOs to operate once the lockdown is lifted. The online gambling firms have been involved in multiple allegations of crimes linked to their operation, such as corruption, money laundering, bribery, tax evasion, kidnapping and sex trafficking.
“Hindi na nga buo ang binabayad nilang tax, may korapsyon at sex trafficking pang pinapalaganap,” Hontiveros said.
[Translation: On top of failing to pay for their taxes, they are even committing corruption and sex trafficking in the country.]
The taxes obtained from POGOs should likewise be used to augment assistance to Filipinos suffering from the impact of the viral disease, she added.
For its part, the Chinese embassy maintained that China and the Philippines are “working closely” to address the threats of the coronavirus disease. It also assured that China will provide assistance “to the best of [its] ability” in the fight against the pandemic.
Call for accountability from China
Apart from the Filipina senator, some officials from other parts of the world are likewise holding China liable for the pandemic that has so far infected nearly 2.6 million people worldwide.
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili, former World Bank vice president for Africa and former minister of education for Nigeria, wrote an opinion piece asserting that Africa be accorded compensation from China.
Ezekwesili said COVID-19 has aggravated the conditions of Africa’s poor and vulnerable, further impeding the region’s development prospects.
“Africa’s economic gains since the last global crisis have been eroded. It is time to make offending rich countries pay the poor ones a global risk burden tax for delaying their rise out of poverty,” she wrote.
She added that “China should demonstrate world leadership by acknowledging its failure to be transparent on Covid-19.”
In the United Staes, the State of Missouri is suing the Chinese governmentState of Missouri is suing the Chinese government, as it accuses the latter of covering up information and doing little to curb the spread of the virus. It also alleges that China’s actions led to”enormous” economic disruptions across the world.
“Before the pandemic, Missouri had one of its lowest unemployment rates of the past decade, but on information and belief, Missouri’s unemployment rate is now the highest it has been since the Great Depression,” the lawsuit read. “Responding to the pandemic has required shutting down businesses, disrupting ordinary production and trade, and dislocating workers.”
Meanwhile, German newspaper Bild has sent the Chinese President an invoice of £130billion reparations for the economic damages brought by the coronavirus disease.
“You, your government and your scientists had to know long ago that Corona is highly infectious, but you left the world in the dark about it,” Bild said in an open letter addressed to President Jinping.
The Chinese government has sent a team of medical experts to the country to share technical advice on the prevention and control of COVID-19. It has also donated medical supplies including surgical and N95 masks, protective suits, face shields, and non-invasive ventilators.