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âUp to DND to check new Mischief Reef constructionâ
“We leave it up to the DND (Department of National Defense) to verify that because the report only appeared in the papers and we will let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) take steps about it. But I cannot comment on something that is not yet verified,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.
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‘Up to DND to check new Mischief Reef construction’

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is leaving it up to the defense department to verify reports about new Chinese construction activities in Panganiban or Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

“We leave it up to the DND (Department of National Defense) to verify that because the report only appeared in the papers and we will let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) take steps about it. But I cannot comment on something that is not yet verified,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has denounced China’s apparent construction activities in the reef over which an international arbitral tribunal has awarded the Philippines sovereign rights.

“While the whole world was focused on combating the global pandemic, China was working overtime for the completion of its facilities in our marine territory,” Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a press statement yesterday.

“We vehemently denounce this callous move of China which never stopped amid a global emergency situation brought about by the pandemic. This is a high-handedness and outright disregard of our marine resources and exclusive economic zone,” he added.

The group issued the statement following a report released by the US-based research firm Simularity indicating that China has been clearing some areas, constructing facilities and installing radar equipment in the artificial island since last year.

China continues to occupy Panganiban Reef even after the 2016 ruling of the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration, declaring the reef to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, as it is located within 200 nautical miles of the country’s Palawan coast.

Over the years, China has transformed the reef into an air and naval outpost.

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Chinese government should pay reparations for the value of the wealth and marine life stolen in the West Philippine Sea due to Beijing’s adventurism in the disputed waters, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said yesterday.

“The Chinese embassy previously refused when we charged more than P200 billion due to China’s destruction of the WPS since 2013. But now, the value of their damage to our natural resources has reached more than P800 billion, so we will continue to (seek payment),” Hontiveros said in Filipino.

Hontiveros cited the P231.7 billion worth of ruined reefs for seven years, as published by the international journal Ecosystem Services last year. The value per coral reef was pegged at P18 million, and this amount was multiplied by 1,850 hectares of reef ecosystems in Panatag and Spratlys that have been damaged by China. – Elizabeth Marcelo, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Pia Lee-Brago

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