A SENATOR on Wednesday said China should pay for damages brought by its reclamation activities in the South China Sea, adding that the Philippines could use the money in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said damages in the country’s reef ecosystems in the past six years could reach P200 billion.

China should “shoulder the cost of our country’s COVID-19 response in reparations for the damage it has been doing to our reef ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea,” she told a virtual news briefing, referring to parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The amount was based on estimates by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. The institute has cited P33.1 billion in yearly losses from the destruction of reefs at the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly islands.

Ms. Baraquel said asking China for payment sends a strong statement that the Philippines holds it accountable for violating a 2016 arbitration court ruling favoring the Southeast Asian nation.

“Whether they pay or not, what’s important is we will have put on record internationally that we are seeking payment from them for violating the United Nations clause,” she said in Filipino.

The senator also criticized China’s plan to set up two districts in Paracel and Spratly Islands.

“We also shouldn’t allow China to continue declaring her so-called districts in areas of the West Philippine Sea while the world is occupied with this crisis that originated from China,” Ms. Baraquel said of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two administrative units are under the control of Sansha City, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army said on its news website on April 17. — Charmaine A. Tadalan