SENATOR Risa Hontiveros has objected to the presence of 220 Chinese maritime militia vessels spotted by the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea, calling it a “severe provocation” that only escalates tensions in the disputed waters. Hontiveros also backs the filing of diplomatic protests to China over the matter.

“Habang nagkakandarapa pa tayo sa pagtaas ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, ang Tsina naman walang pakundangan ang pagsulong sa ating karagatan. Not aggravating the tensions in our seas is the absolute least China could have done in the middle of a global pandemic. Respeto nalang sana, hindi pa maipakita,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros, who has been vocal about China’s incursions in the WPS, added that the presence of the Chinese vessels in Philippine territory does not build peace or stability in the region.

As the diplomatic protest takes its course in this issue, Hontiveros said the government should also study more tangible ways to make China pay. Hontiveros also emphasized the environmental damage and the natural resources that could be further lost due to the presence of the vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

“We have exclusive rights over the resources — fish, oil, and natural gas — in Julian Felipe Reef. Atin lang dapat iyan pero pilit na naman nang-aagaw ang Tsina ng mga bagay na hindi kanila. Nakakagalit. It’s maddening how China continues to snatch away our nation’s wealth while we’re in the depths of an economic crisis,” the senator said.

Last month, Hontiveros revealed that China owes Filipinos over P800 Billion in marine damage and losses due to its adventurism in the WPS. In April 2020, the senator also filed Senate Resolution No. 369 demanding that China pay ?200 billion worth of reparations, which could be used in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

“China really has no plans of recognizing and respecting the 2016 Hague ruling that favors our country. Hindi na nakakatuwa ang patuloy na panggagahasa ng ating likas-yaman. Mag-ipon na ang Tsina kasi magbabayad sila,” Hontiveros concluded.

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