“Today, the Katipunan was founded, and that spirit is what we bring in our fight.”
By DEE AYROSO
Likening the fight against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea to the Katipuneros’ fight against Spaniards, progressive groups enjoined every Filipino to take part in the long battle.
Groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) held a protest at the Chinese consulate in Makati City at 11 a.m. today, July 7, in support of the Philippine government’s presentation of oral arguments at the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands.
July 7 was also the founding of the first revolutionary organization which galvanized the Filipino nation’s fight against the Spanish colonizers: the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or Katipunan, founded by Andres Bonifacio and other Filipino revolutionaries in 1892.
“Today, the Katipunan was founded, and that spirit is what we bring in our fight,” said Raymond Palatino, Bayan National Capital Region chairperson.
“We should take inspiration from the Katipuneros, who founded the organization that stirred the whole Filipino nation,” he said. “The most effective weapon to defend our sovereignty against foreign powers, is the people’s unity and collective action.”
The arbitration court set the hearing from July 7 to 13, to determine whether it has jurisdiction to try the complaint filed by the Philippines against China in January 2013. The Philippines is asking the tribunal to invalidate China’s claim based on its nine-dashed line, which encroaches on the country’s exclusive economic zone and violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
China, which is a signatory to the Unclos like the Philippines, has opted out of the arbitration.
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairperson Elmer Labog said he is optimistic that the Philippines will get a favourable ruling in the arbitration court.
“There is moral and political basis for the Philippine claim, because it is based on Unclos and its definition of territories of countries, while China’s claim has no logical and historic basis,” he said.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. also said the Philippines has a “strong case.”
“If the Philippines wins, then we would have gained an important legal and moral victory against China’s absurd claims. It would aid our assertion of our sovereignty and gain us the support of the international community,” he said.
But China may still refuse to leave, and so “the people’s participation is crucial,” Reyes said.
“There is need for the country to have the capacity to defend our islands and waters. We should strengthen our economy, our capacity to defend the country with a credible external defense force, and not be satisfied with ukay-ukay (second-hand) ships and weapons from the United States,” Reyes said.
Cleng Julve, of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) said China’s reclamation and ocean filling had resulted in the destruction of 808 hectares of coral reefs.
Julve said the coral reefs bring in an estimated income of $305,000 per hectare a year in services. The Philippines then, loses an estimate of $280 billion in resources a year.
Among the protesters were members of a research team led by University of the Philippines professor Sarah Raymundo, who went to Masinloc town in Zambales to study the socio-economic effects of China’s incursions among the fisherfolk who have lost access to their fishing grounds.
Gelix Pilapil, a 3rd year public administration major who was a member of the research team, said many of the fisherfolk she interviewed expressed “hopelessness,” and were pessimistic about diplomatic solutions to get China out of Philippine territory. She said that although the fisherfolk want to regain Philippine control over its waters, they were not optimistic it will happen soon.
“But they were still willing to cooperate…they want to know what they can do,” Pilapil told Bulatlat.com. She said that among those they interviewed had filed a complaint with the United Nations, aided by international law expert lawyer Harry Roque.
Lemuel Teh, a 2nd year business economics major who was also one of the researchers, said that many of the fisherfolk were “enthusiastic” during the interviews, although their situation was gloomy, as they now barely earn, after losing access to the fishing grounds.
Teh said the fishermen used to catch first-class, deep ocean fish like sea bass, tarian, tuna, lapu-lapu and grouper, which fetch a good price and are in demand in the market.
Teh said some interviewees were crew members of a deep sea fishing vessel, and they used to get paid P3,500 ($77) per haul, with the vessel hauling in thrice a week. But now they barely get P1,000 ($22) a week.
The team will issue a report on the findings of the study within the month, while the research will be published in a book, Raymundo said.
Fight vs. imperialist
Labog said many Filipinos are angered by China’s incursions in Philippine territory, but are yet to come out and join the protest. Fisherfolk from the coastlines of Luzon, as well as those residing in Panatag shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and the Kalayaan islands are losing their livelihood.
“Ang taong nagigipit, sa patalim kumakapit,” he said. “It means, as the people get hungry, they will see the essence of fighting back.”
Labog said it is the best time to organize the people, strengthen the ranks, “know who are our enemies and friends.”
“It is clear that China is now an imperialist country, and is an enemy of the Filipino people,” Labog said.
Nenita Tolentino-Gonzaga, KMU vice chairperson for women affairs, said the legal battle in the UN tribunal is “putting our best foot forward.” She said she had been a union organizer since Martial Law, and even at age 74, still sees the most effective way, is to protest, “in bigger, better, stronger numbers.”