Roque: One day, we'll thank China for artificial islands

ARTIFICIAL ISLANDS. A photo obtained by Rappler shows the status of reclamation activities in Keenan (Chigua) Reef in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as of December 12, 2014.

ARTIFICIAL ISLANDS. A photo obtained by Rappler shows the status of reclamation activities in Keenan (Chigua) Reef in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as of December 12, 2014.

MANILA, Philippines – While China's island-building in the West Philippine Sea may be worrisome now, one day, the Philippines will "thank" China for them.

This was what Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during an interview with Franco Mabanta, a supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, on Wednesday, February 7.

"There will come a time when China's might has ceased, when we will have to thank them for those islands," he said.

"Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave," he added, maintaining that only the Philippines can legally build artificial islands.

While the artificial islands created by China through reclamation around coral reefs are now outfitted with assets like runways, control towers, and hangars, the reclamation has caused "irreversible" damage to the environment.

Under the Aquino administration, the Philippine government had said that 300 acres of coral reefs – more than twice the size of Rizal Park – have been destroyed due to China's island-building activities in the West Philippine Sea. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs back then had pegged economic losses from the damage at $100 million or P4.45 billion.

That is enough money, daily, to pay 9.62 million minimum wage earners in the Philippine capital.

In fact, environmental damage due to China's island-building was one of the key findings of the landmark ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration which nullified China's claim to the West Philippine Sea.

The international court had said that China's large-scale land reclamation has "caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems." (READ: Malacañang on China buildup on PH reef: What do you want us to do?– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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