Del Rosario: PH can seize China’s assets as payment for West PH Sea damage

JC Gotinga
Del Rosario: PH can seize China’s assets as payment for West PH Sea damage
Assets that can be seized include China's stakes in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and the 3rd telco, says former foreign affairs chief Albert del Rosario

MANILA, Philippines – The government has the right to seize China’s assets and properties in the Philippines as compensation for environmental damage in the West Philippine Sea, said former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday, June 8.

Citing a study by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), Del Rosario said China owes the Philippines more than P230 billion for the destruction of coral reefs and other marine life caused by its illegal actions.

“Once China’s monetary damages are fixed, Philippine authorities have the right to seize assets and properties owned by the Chinese State in the Philippines to satisfy China’s debt to the Filipino people,” Del Rosario said in a webinar hosted by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

“These assets may include the Chinese government’s interests in the National Grid [Corporation] of the Philippines (NGCP) and China Telecom, which establishes itself as the 3rd telco in our country,” Del Rosario added.

China’s corporations in Philippine utilities

The Chinese government-owned State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) has owned 40% of NGCP since 2008, during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The NGCP website lists SGCC as its “technical partner.”

Hontiveros and former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned of the dangers of the Chinese government’s degree of control over the national grid. A CNN report said through SGCC’s presence in NGCP, Beijing could in theory remotely deactivate power in the entire Philippines.

China Telecom is another Chinese state-owned corporation. It has a 40% stake in Dito Telecommunity, poised to roll out as the Philippines’ 3rd telecommunications provider by March 2021.

Dito’s technology and infrastructure would be built by China Telecom, the company earlier said. It is also poised to gain access to Philippine military camps through a co-location deal on military communication towers, similar to that of the other two telcos Globe and Smart.

Experts and several government officials have flagged the information security risks posed by China Telecom’s entry into the Philippine market. A study by the Armed Forces of the Philippines recognized the risks involved in letting Dito build cell sites on its properties.

“Despite China’s clear disrespect of our internationally-recognized rights over our territory, our fishermen, and our people, our government welcomes China while other countries like Australia, Japan, India, the US, and the European Union have recently put in place measures to prevent China from taking over their important industries like energy and telecommunications,” Del Rosario said.

Damage the size of 1,850 football fields

“It is time for Filipinos to unite and demand what is due. It is also time for us to protect ourselves from China’s continuing abusive practices,” Del Rosario added.

In recent years, China has increasingly dominated the West Philippine Sea and the broader South China Sea through its vessels – military, paramilitary, and civilian – scattered strategically across the resource-rich waters.

Edging out other maritime claimants like the Philippines, Chinese reef reclamation, overfishing, poaching, and harvesting of giant clams have turned the South China Sea into “a wasteland…a boneyard,” American geopolitical analyst Gregory Poling said in May.

Hontiveros in April filed a Senate resolution seeking damages from China worth around P200 billion. Citing the same UP MSI study, she said China has irreversibly destroyed 1,850 hectares of the West Philippine Sea – the size of 1,850 football fields.

In Monday’s forum, the senator lamented the “dismissive, almost non-response” of the Chinese embassy in Manila to her resolution.

International action

In the forum, Del Rosario urged the government to raise the matter of China’s abuses in the West Philippine Sea before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. He and Carpio said only a multilateral effort can compel China to abide by international law, including the July 2016 arbitral ruling that affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights and invalidated China’s sweeping 9-dash line ownership claim.

Del Rosario and Carpio were key figures in building and arguing the landmark arbitration case at the UN-backed international tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands.

Del Rosario said he and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales continue to build another case, suing Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and former ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC dismissed the case in December 2019 for lack of jurisdiction, but Del Rosario and Morales said they were taking the option to file new information on the case, which might lead the ICC to reconsider it.

The case seeks justice for some 300,000 Filipino fishermen robbed of food security because of China’s actions, Del Rosario said.

“We’re very hopeful about this,” he added, noting that Xi, Wang, and Zhao would be unable to travel to countries party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC if the case succeeds. –

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.