NEW YORK - Loida Nicolas Lewis, national chair of a Filipino-American good governance organization, on Thursday called on Filipinos around the world to hold rallies in front of China’s embassies and consulates on May 11 to protest its recent aggressive encroachments on the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal.
Her call quickly drew positive responses from an initial batch of Filipino groups in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Australia.
China considers the Scarborough Shoal, located 124 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Zambales province, to be its “inherent territory” even though it lies more than 500 nautical miles from the nearest China port of Hainan.
Manila on Thursday stepped up its calls to the ASEAN to back up its moves to prevent Beijing’s bullying, noting that the Asian giant has been in repeated violation of UN and regional protocols.
China had said it does not recognize Manila’s assertion of its rights under the UN-set 200-mile exclusive economic zone, because what it has are “historic rights” dating to centuries back.
Series of bullying acts
The territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal, which China calls the "Huangyan Island" and which the Philippines refers to as the "Panatag Shoal", has escalated in recent months owing to several developments:
First, Chinese navy ships recently confronted the Philippine navy vessel, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which sought to apprehend Chinese boats illegally fishing in the area last April 10. The Chinese fishing boats were found to contain corals, rare fish and live baby sharks, which are considered illegal cargo under Philippine law.
Second, Chinese navy ships have fired on and harassed unarmed Philippine fishing boats and exploration vessels, forcing them to withdraw.
Third, Chinese navy ships have dropped steel posts and navigation buoys with Chinese markings in the waters around Scarborough Shoal.
China’s Global Times, published by the government’s People’s Daily,reported in its April 25 editorial that China is prepared to engage in a small-scale war at sea with the Philippines: “China should select the most arrogant provocateur, conduct comprehensive strikes, and exert pressure economically, politically and militarily. If the water overwhelms China's knees, other countries will find their necks in the water.”
To defuse the potential for war, the Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario proposed that the two countries bring their territorial dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) but this proposal was immediately rejected by China.
Rallying the Pinoy diaspora
Rodel Rodis, national president of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), called on the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) representing 12 million Filipinos in 220 countries throughout the world to support the Philippines’ sovereign claim to the Scarborough Shoal which has been in Philippine maps since 1743.
“A strong showing of support and solidarity by Filipinos in the Diaspora will impress on China that it is not just confronting a small country in that it can easily bully, but one that has citizens scattered throughout the world who can mobilize and galvanize public opinion against China,” Rodis said.
Ted Laguatan, USP4GG national spokesman, added: “We are calling on all Filipinos and all those others who believe in freedom and the right of every country to control its own destiny to join us in a global demonstration at Chinese embassies and consulates in the United States and around the world at 12 noon on Friday, May 11.”
Organizers invited interested parties to log on to usp4gg.org or epeoplepower.ph.