The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 3 - 4:08 p.m.) Organizers of the Philippine leg of multi-country protests by Filipinos against Chinese 'bullying' in the South China Sea on Friday declared a success their rally at China's consular office in Makati City, saying it 'sent a clear message' to Beijing that while Filipinos remain friends with the Chinese people, they won't tolerate having their sovereignty trampled on.
The Makati protest, spearheaded by Akbayan, demanded that China “immediately pull out all of its sea vessels” from Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, where it has been engaged in a standoff with Philippine vessels for more than a month now.
Makati police chief, Senior Superintendent Jaime Santos, said some 350 people showed up for the protest while other estimates put it at 500.
In all, a 200-man security contingent was deployed at the scene, including 46 civil disturbance management troops, seven SWAT unit members, 50 regional public safety unit staff, and 80 Makati policemen.
The Makati protest, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., was peaceful except for one instance when police confiscated a Chinese flag that former policeman and tabloid columnist Abner Afuang tried to set on fire.
It would have been the third time Afuang torched the Chinese flag, following incidents on April 30 and May 7.
From time to time, the protesters, dressed in yellow shirts, would shout, "China back off." In between that and flag-waving, protesters also did the sign language for the phrase, "no bullying"
Newspaper columnist, TV host and professor Solita Monsod, who attended the Makati rally, said she agreed with the call of the civic group, US Pinoys for Good Governance, which initiated the call for the global action.
However, she said calls for China to "back off" should be accompanied by smiles.
Among the personalities who showed up in the protest action beasides Monsod, former Commission on Overseas Filipinos director Jose Molano and former Tourism undersecretary Jun Campillo.
Similar protests are being held at noon of May 11 in eight other places where there are large concentrations of Filipinos.
Two peoples are friends, but Beijing needs reminding
In the "people's manifesto" circulated among ralliers, the organizers stressed the Filipinos have no quarrel with the Chinese people, with whom they share centuries of friendship and economic cooperation. The manifesto noted the key role played in Philippine progress and nation-building by many Filipinos of Chinese descent. They are, however, denouncing the government in Beijing for its acts of aggression against its smaller Asian neighbor.
At the same time, while stressing she was for a diplomatic resolution to the standoff, Monsod reminded China of the biblical story of David and Goliath, in which the young shepherd from Israel slew the Philistine giant.
"Today, Filipinos from different parts of the world rise up to confront the bullying of the Chinese government in the region. We hope China hears us loud and clear. We may be a small nation, but we will not let our country's sovereignty be trampled upon," Akbayan acting president Marie Chris Cabreros said.
In Pampanga province, RadyoSingko reported that a protest led by former governor Ed Panilio was also being staged outside the Paskuhan Village in San Fernando City.
Filipinos living in the US, Australia, Italy, Canada and other countries are also expected to picket Chinese embassies and consulates.
In Shanghai, the Philippine consulate issued an advisory to Filipinos in China to “remain calm, maintain vigilance, be conscious of their personal safety, and not engage in heated discussion or argument” with local residents about the territorial dispute.
"We remind China that it cannot continue to use gunboat diplomacy in the region or worse, to willfully violate the territory of other countries without courting the ire of the international community. We don't think China is ready to isolate itself. The world is watching," Cabreros said.
Akbayan also slammed China’s foreign ministry for issuing a travel advisory warning its citizens of possible reprisal from Filipinos. The group said the protest was against China’s incursions, not against the Chinese people.
"Our protest action is directed against the policies and the bullying of the Chinese government in the Panatag Shoal. It is not a demonstration against the Chinese people," Cabreros stressed.
"We can be very passionate in our assertion of our country's sovereignty but it doesn't mean we severe our friendship and ties with peoples of other nations. We hope our Chinese friends will continue to visit us. It's more fun in the Philippines, " Cabreros added.
The May 11 protests are being held in three cities in the US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Africa, Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
As they voluntarily dispersed before 3 p.m., organizers of the Philippine leg of protests declared it a success, saying they are confident they sent the message across to Beijing that Filipinos will fight incursions into their shores even while they sustain their friendship with the Chinese people.
Emman Hizon, Akbayan information officer, said some Vietnamese nationals who believe in the cause of the Filipinos joined the protest. China and Vietnam, which like Manila has maritime disputes with Beijing, have had several skirmishes in the seas in recent years.
“We achieved the target of a thousand participants, there were a lot of walk-ins, too,” Hizon said.
Capt. Ronaldo Ildefonso, team leader of the Civil Disturbance Management unit of the Southern Police District, said the protesters had a permit to occupy one lane of the financial district’s street up to 1 pm only.
Alert still up at consulate
Meanwhile, the Makati police will continue its deployment at the perimeter of the consulate, to guard against elements that may exploit the tension to create trouble. Police have not removed the thick cordon they used to rope off the area approaching the building.
All three lanes of Buendia going to the EDSA-Ayala area are now open.