Groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched to the Chinese Consulate in Makati City today to hold a protest rally against the Chinese military build-up in islands in the West Philippine Sea. The group also called on China to immediate get out of Philippine territory.
During the protest march, protesters carried a shattered fishing boat, which according to them symbolized the adverse effect of Chinese aggressive usurpation of the country’s territorial waters and China’s incursion on the livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk, especially those coming from the provinces of Zambales, Bataan and Pangasinan.
The groups also slammed the continuing defiance of China to the verdict of the international tribunal in 2016 which invalidated China’s nine-dash line assumption.
Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) claimed that China has been conducting its reclamation activities in almost entire South China Sea including 80% of the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zones.
Pamalakaya also pointed out that China has completely taken over and deployed their military ships in Scarborough Shoal, which according to them is just 124-nautical miles away from the shoreline of the province of Zambales, a traditional fishing ground for Filipino fishermen.
“We condemn the government of China for its gross violation of our sovereign and territorial rights that is being tolerated by the Duterte administration,” said Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson.
Hicap added, “We call on all patriotic Filipinos to collectively assert our rights in our territory and call for the unconditional exit of China and other foreign powers like the United States and Japan in our marine waters.”
China’s reclamation activities slammed
Meanwhile, green groups Nilad, Wild for Wetlands and Ban Reclamation Movement also joined the protest at the Chinese consulate today. Environment activists denounced the series of reclamation activities of China in Philippine waters which they said will eventually cause massive environmental destruction of local marine biodiversity and ecosystem.
Pamalakaya cited recent reports showing that the Chinese government is almost done transforming seven reefs in the Kalayaan Group of Islands. As said by the group, China already reclaimed the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon, Burgos, Mabini, Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora and McKennan (Hughes) reefs.
In a statement, Nilad said that China’s reclamation activities prove that it is not only a bully neighbor but also an aggressor who has little or no regard for the environment. They insisted that China and its powerful backers in the Philippine government should be held accountable for destroying the environment and undermining our territorial integrity.
Kevin Paul Aguayon, Nilad spokesperson said, “We should reclaim our dignity by stopping China’s expansionist agenda over the West Philippine Sea. We should uphold environmental justice by opposing reclamation, whether it is done by Chinese thugs or Filipino trapo [traditional politicians].”
He added, “Allowing the wanton plunder of our marine resources is an attack on our patrinomy and sovereignty.”
Nilad also added that even if reclamation is difficult to reverse, we can still punish public officials who betrayed the interests of the Filipino people. Aguayon said that what is more tragic is that criminal activities of China are seemingly being tolerated by the Duterte government.
Duterte keeps China ‘unchallenged’
Amid the continuing militarization and reclamation activities of China in disputed Philippine islands and territory, Bayan condemned the ‘inaction’ of President Duterte over the said ‘illegal activities.’
The Palace already admitted that it could not stop China’s construction of military facilities in several disputed islands.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said, “If the Philippine government won’t strongly protest China’s military build-up, then the Filipino people will. We cannot just stand by and allow these illegal activities to go unchallenged.”
Reyes added, “It is important that we continue to defend our country’s sovereign rights to these waters and reefs, lest China think the Philippines has already given up by default.”
Bayan also slammed the recent statement of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that said the Philippines will one day be thankful for China’s facilities that the imperial power will leave behind eventually.
“Nanakawan na tayo, tayo pa ang magpapasalamat!” Reyes exclaimed.
[We are being robbed, yet we were asked to express our gratitude!]
He continued, “It’s like being thankful that thieves returned your wallet, even when it is already empty. The statement shows everything wrong with Philippine foreign policy.”