hina owes the Philippines and other countries more than $177 billion in rent and damages for the South China Sea fiasco. The Permanent Court of Arbitration found on Tuesday that Mischief Reef is a low-water elevation and within Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. This gives the Philippines’ indisputable legal rights to the reef. But since 1995 when China occupied the reef, China irreparably harmed the reef’s delicate marine ecosystem by dredging and building an artificial island there, including a military garrison and air-strip. By my estimate, China owes the Philippines $12.4 billion in rent and damages for Mischief Reef alone. Considering other Chinese island-building, the country owes the Philippines and other claimant countries more than $177 billion. If China doesn’t want to pay, the Philippines can sue in the courts of the U.S. and other countries where China holds property.
Here is how to calculate what China owes. In 2015, the U.S. paid $1.97 million to the Philippines for 0.58 acres of coral reef destroyed when the USS Guardian went aground. That is a key reference point for environmental claims. Rent is even more costly. In 1988, the Philippines demanded $1.2 billion from the U.S. in rent for 6 military bases — $200 million each per year in 1988 dollars. The U.S. refused and got evicted.