“We will not be caught in the claws of the Dragon, nor the Eagle.”
By BETTINA CATLI and DEE AYROSO
MANILA – More than 1,000 protesters commemorated the 117th Philippine Independence Day today, June 12, with calls on the nation to resist not one, but two imperialist powers: the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.
Progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the newly-formed patriotic movement, Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) called on the Filipino people to stand against “Chinese expansionism and US interventionism.”
“China should immediately stop its reclamation and harassment activities in the West Philippines Sea, while the US should stop its increasing military deployment in the region. Both big powers should keep their hands off the Philippines,” said P1NAS in a statement.
The protesters criticized the Aquino administration for relying on the US to challenge China’s aggression, likening it to stopping a bully, by depending on another bully.
Bayan said the people must, instead, “stand in defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity against the foreign powers that seek to tear the Philippines apart.”
“We will not be caught in the claws of the Dragon nor the Eagle,” said Bayan in its statement.
The protest started in the morning, first, at the Chinese consulate office in the central business district in Makati, then, proceeded to the US embassy in Manila.
P1NAS convenors, former Senator Rene Saguisag and writer and actress Bibeth Orteza, joined the protest, from Makati to Manila.
Hundreds of anti-riot police were deployed in both protests, guarding the front of the two embassies. In Manila, a fire truck was also positioned at a distance, behind the phalanx of police.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said it was the biggest protest they have held against China.
Marching towards the Chinese consulate, protesters chanted, “Atin ang Pinas, China, layas!” (The Philippines is ours, China get out)
The song, “Tindig Pinas,” (Stand up, Philippines) composed and performed by anti-pork barrel musician, Monet Silvestre, played on the loop.
“China is manufacturing islands in the West Philippine Sea, through its reclamation,” said P1NAS convenor and Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares. “But not only islands, China is manufacturing evidence to claim the islands are theirs,” he said, referring to China’s nine-dash-line basis for its claim.
Colmenares said China has also engaged in corrupt deals with the Philippine government, citing the NBN-ZTE deal, North and South Rail projects.
Saguisag, one of the “Magnificent 12,” the 12 senators who voted to reject the RP-US Bases Treaty of Friendship in 1991, said, “The answer is in your hands.”
The protest leaders expressed respect for Saguisag, who walked slowly with a cane, but still marched from the UN avenue to Roxas Boulevard. They said the country is fortunate to have patriotic legislators like Saguisag and the other 11 senators, who stood up against the US.
At the US embassy, protesters lambasted the “primary dominant foreign power” which, they said, is behind the Philippines’ “false independence.”
“We are still tugging at the skirt of control of US imperialism,” said Elmer Labog, chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS). He said that the US holds sway over the Philippine economy and foreign affairs, and now China also wants to dip its fingers.
P1NAS convenor Lisa Maza said that even as there are calls to scrap the two lopsided defense agreements, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), the US is even “manipulating” the West Philippine Sea conflict to increase its presence in the country and in the Asia-Pacific waters.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, gave a more graphic analogy of the two foreign powers.
“They are like gang rapists, each one wanting to be the first to get to the victim,” said Salvador.
Even Japan is added into the picture, as President Aquino last week said that the country is set to sign a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan.
“The US and Japan, which have a strong alliance, are both exploiting this Chinese issue to force the Philippines into becoming a military base,” Makabayan president Satur Ocampo told Bulatlat.com.
He said the Philippines is put at risk when it becomes a staging point for war, not just for the US,but also Japan and Australia.
“China should stop what it’s doing, and be true to its promise to work with other countries,” Ocampo said.
Reyes said that China, being no longer socialist, now carries a capitalist orientation. “It now has an imperialist agenda and ambition, and is using its military might to grab the oceans and islands from the Philippines,” he told Bulatlat.com.
“The US agenda is clear, with its ‘pivot to Asia.’ They want to bring in more of their troops and ships into the region, because they want to be dominant, and will compete with China. The US also uses its military might in furtherance of its economic interests in the region,” Reyes said.
Rafael Mariano, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson, said the US is behind the recent moves at the House of Representatives to amend the 1987 Constitution.
They want to liberalize the economy completely, to allow foreign powers to grab peasants’ lands, and plunder the national patrimony, Mariano said.
Mariano stressed the need for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, which will distribute lands, raise agricultural productivity, and develop light to heavy industries to build a strong Philippine economy.
A strong economy will be the basis for the country’s strong territorial defense, Mariano said.
“Without these, paper planes and paper boats are the only ones we will be sending out, and we would continue to depend on foreign powers,” he said.
Celebrate the spirit
“We are here to unite. We are here because we don’t want to be caught in between the interests of those who rule our seas,” Orteza told Bulatlat.com.
Asked what she wants to tell the US and China, Orteza said: “Leave us alone, let us be and keep your hands off our country. A lot of things are bad enough as it is, don’t add to the sufferings of the people.”
“The Filipino people will act to defend our sovereignty, just like in the time of the US bases,” Gabriela’s Salvador said. “We were able to kick out the US troops, and will be able to again succeed in resisting US control,” she added.
Some 300 hundred cyclists joined the protest, biking from Manila to Makati and back, chanting the protest slogans and carrying the Philippine flag on their bikes or their helmets.
After the protest, other groups under the Di Ka Pasisiil Movement, also picketed the Chinese consulate. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), motorcycle riders groups, and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez were among those who were in the second batch of protesters against China.