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China's interest in NGCP, third telco may be seized over unpaid reparation for WPS damages -ex-DFA chief

The Philippine government can exact measures to make China pay the Filipino people for its illegal activities in the West Philippine Sea which caused massive destruction in the marine wealth of the country, according to former Foreign Affairs chief Albert Del Rosario on Monday.

During a virtual forum, Del Rosario cited UP Marine Science Institute's study which estimates that China owes at least P33 billion to the Philippines annually since 2014 for allegedly damaging the country's marine ecosystem through artificial island-building and illegal fishing operations.

"China refuses to pay its debt to Filipinos. How will we make China pay? It's time for Filipinos to unite and demand what is due from China. Filipino authorities have the right to seize assets and properties owned by the Chinese state here in the Philippines to satisfy China's debt to the Filipino people once China's full monetary damages are determined," Del Rosario said.

"Included in these assets are the Chinese government's interest in the National Grid of the Philippines and China Telecom as [part of] the third telco in the country," he added.

In January 2019, a petition to nullify the National Telecommunications Commission's decision of awarding the third telco slot to Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co.(Mislatel) — now DITO Telecommunity Corporation — has been filed before the Supreme Court.

The said consortium is composed of Chinese state-owned China Telecom Corp. Ltd., Udenna Corp. of businessman Dennis Uy, and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp.

Despite critics' concerns on threats to national security, President Rodrigo Duterte awarded to the company in July 2019 the permit to operate.

Chinese ownership and control of the country’s power transmission grid is also being questioned by various groups and government leaders, as the State Grid Corporation of China is the NGCP's biggest equity holder at 40%.

The NGCP underscored that the SGCC merely plays as a "technical adviser."

Del Rosario said the government must assert that China should pay for the damages it has caused in the West Philippine Sea. "China can be held accountable here in the country and our Philippine government needs to stand up for our legitimate rights," he said.

He also called for proactive steps from the government to prevent China's infiltration of the country's crucial assets.

"Other countries such as Australia, Japan, US, and  the European Union have recently enacted measures to prevent China on taking over their strategic and vital industries like energy, technology and telecommunications," he said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, who recently demanded a P200-billion reparation from China for the damage it caused on the West Philippine Sea's reef ecosystem, also expressed dismay for the Asian powerhouse's lack of sense of responsibility.

"I was very disappointed with that dismissive and almost non-response of the Chinese embassy here in the Philippines. Though I wasn't completely surprised," she said in the same forum.

Hontiveros previously said that unpaid debt can be used by the Philippine government to cover its COVID-19 response efforts.

"Now it remains up to the Philippine government to assert that it is indeed a very reasonable and legitimate claim," she added.

The Chinese embassy in Manila has previously called out the senator's remark.

"China and the Philippine are working closely to fight the common threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this trying time, it is ridiculously absurd and irresponsible to make such remarks for the sole purpose of catching eyeballs and for selfish political gains," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement.

"China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors across the sea," it added. --KBK, GMA News