Sen. Francis Pangilinan said while the world is battling Covid-19, China took advantage of the situation in its military expansion in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

He cited the 220 Chinese militia boats in Julian Felipe Reef (Union Reef) in WPS and asked, did China deliberately let lose a “geopolitical weapon” in the form of donated vaccine?

He noted this was not the first time Chinese warships were seen in the area.

“We are behind the government in asserting our rights in our seas. We may not be as strong militarily but we certainly (have the legal, moral, and diplomatic right,” he said. “Although our military is not as big and strong as theirs, we are in the right because this is ours.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also backs the filing of diplomatic protests to China over the matter.

“Not aggravating tensions in our seas is the absolute least China could have done in the middle of a global pandemic. Respeto nalang sana, hindi pa maipakita,” Hontiveros said.

As the diplomatic protest takes its course in this issue, Hontiveros said the government should also study more tangible ways to make China pay. She also emphasized the environmental damage and the natural resources that could be further lost due to the presence of the vessels in Julian Felipe Reef, which is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

“We have exclusive rights over the resources — fish, oil, and natural gas — in Julian Felipe Reef. It’s maddening how China continues to snatch away our nation’s wealth while we’re in the depths of an economic crisis,” the Senator said.

Last month, Hontiveros said China owes Filipinos over ₱800 Billion in marine damage and losses due to its adventurism in the WPS. In April 2020, the Senator also filed Senate Resolution number 369 demanding that China pay ₱200 billion worth of reparations, which could be used in the country’s fight against COVID-19.