Make China liable for ruinous pandemic

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Four facts make China liable for SARS-CoV-2:

• When the disease was detected near a wild animal market and a virology center in Wuhan in November 2019, officials did not act immediately.

• They even squelched the news and arrested ophthalmologist Li Wenliang for alerting fellow doctors of possible epidemic.

• After confirming the outbreak in late December they let five million Wuhanese travel the country and abroad, spreading the coronavirus.

• They ignored global calls since 2003 to close down the $79 billion-a-year wild animal trade despite their own findings that SARS-CoV-1 sprung from it.

Individuals, families and organizations can demand recompense from China. Tens of millions lost loved ones to the pandemic. Infection survivors suffered permanent physical damage. Jobs and businesses vanished. Hunger worsened.

Governments must espouse their cause for damages. In international law, only states have the standing to make claims, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino told Sapol-dwIZ on Saturday. The dean of San Beda University’s Graduate School of Law, like countless experts worldwide, has been studying the issue. With the pandemic subsiding, aggrieved states can get together and talk to China.

Legal bases for China’s fault are strong. Primary is the United Nations Covenant on Social, Economic, Political and Cultural Rights, of which Beijing is a signatory. Article 12.2 compels state-parties to “control and treat epidemic diseases.”

Chinese Communist Party rulers committed more misdeeds. President Xi Jinping disinformed the world that (1) a European brought the virus to Wuhan, (2) Wuhan was not the first epicenter after all and (3) it was a creation of the US Army. He stamped out an online denouncement by 14 million Chinese of World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus’ glossing over the CCP’s tepid pandemic response.

“Uncle Xi” then propagandized to Chinese that they were to save the world. Yet he tied emergency medical supply donations to geopolitics. Face masks and ventilators were airlifted to the Czech Republic only after it sacked its long-serving cybersecurity chief who had first warned the world in 2018 about Huawei and ZTE’s spyware. Same with aid to African and Middle Eastern states, given after wangling concessions for seaports, naval bases and reef reclamations.

Xi embargoed trade with Australia where the parliament sought an international investigation of the pandemic’s source. For one year he barred WHO scientists from Wuhan then, after relenting, restricted their movements and interviews.

The CCP took advantage of the Philippines where the first reported infectee was a Wuhanese tourist. With Filipino fishing and patrols scarce due to Luzon-wide lockdown in 2020, Beijing intensified naval and coastguard trespass of the West Philippine Sea where it declared two new incursive “scientific research districts.” In the first half of 2021, 240 Chinese fisheries militia trawlers blockaded Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in Pagkakaisa (Union) Bank. Reinforced by a hundred more, they then poached at Kalayaan Islands and Recto Bank.

The People’s Liberation Army also attempted footholds in Fuga Island, Cagayan; Subic Bay, Zambales and Sangley Point, Cavite, the Philippine Fleet’s main port. Media exposés and quiet Philippine military resistance prevented it.

Elsewhere in ASEAN, the PLA repeatedly violated air and maritime zones of Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. More dams in China’s side of the Mekong diverted river flow from Indochina, wrecking grain harvests and inland fisheries of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.

Supposed Chinese pandemic assistance came at a huge cost to Manila. A year since Malacañang first purchased mostly Sinovac inoculants, it has yet to disclose the price. Sworn to non-disclosure, health bureaucrats only estimated P3,640 per double dose. The same Chinese vaccine was openly sold at only P250 per vial to Thailand and P815 to Indonesia.

Revealed in the Senate were pricey pandemic procurements from Chinese suppliers, to the exclusion of Filipino manufacturers. Among those that cornered P42 billion is a Chinese state machinery fabricator that suddenly shifted to medical paraphernalia. The rest, led by Pharmally, were fly-by-nights of suspected Chinese state agent Michael Yang, also special presidential economic adviser. Most were not registered to operate in the Philippines and paid no income taxes. Quietly, 90-percent shares of oil giants Chevron and Shell in Malampaya gas field were transferred to a newborn Filipino firm tied to China National Offshore Oil Co.

Fr. Aquino said countries must bind together under the UN or regional groupings to negotiate damage payments from China. ASEAN can bargain without need to make China admit fault. Reparations can be in machinery or cash like from Japan after World War II.

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