“June 12 is a reminder that our nation is not truly free as China grabs our islands while the US seeks to re-establish its bases in the Philippines.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Progressives held back-to-back protest actions today before the US Embassy in Manila and the Chinese consulate in Makati to commemorate the country’s Independence Day.
“June 12 is a reminder that our nation is not truly free as China grabs our islands while the US seeks to re-establish its bases in the Philippines,” said Bayan, an umbrella organization of progressive groups, in a statement.
Members of progressive groups began their protest as they marched along Kalaw Avenue, where they were blocked thrice by police officers until they were able to hold a short program in front of the US embassy.
They then held a caravan to Makati and marched along Gil Puyat.
Among those who joined the protest were human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, and actors Mae Paner and Pen Medina.
Bayan said both US and China “want to open up the Philippine economy for investments and extraction of resources.”
Risks facing fisherfolk amid US, China intervention
In an interview, Pamalakaya spokesperson Bobby Roldan told Bulatlat that many fishing communities are caught between two imperialist powers in the West Philippine Sea dispute, which, at the end of the day, “only want to benefit from the country’s natural resources.”
Chinese presence in the disputed waters remains to this day. Roldan said they continue to drive away Filipino fisherfolk, including those who usually seek sanctuary at the Scarborough shoal lagoon whenever the weather has gone bad.
Pamalakaya has already documented about 50 fisherfolk who has gone missing ever since Chinese coast guards began flexing their muscles in the disputed waters as Filipino fisherfolk are now forced to return to shores despite the bad weather.
Filipinos, too, are also way behind in terms of fishing technology. Roldan said that for every one fish they catch, Chinese fishing vessels get about a ton.
Economic intervention hurting the poorest
The intervention of both US and China, however, may also be seen in various policies of the Duterte administration, despite his supposed tough-talking stance on having an independent foreign policy.
As Filipino fisherfolk stand their ground in the disputed waters, their fight continues as they return home with the left and right mining activities in their communities.
Roldan stressed that Zambales and its neighboring provinces are rich in natural resources. It is home to several US and Chinese mining firms, including a jade mine.
Chinese and US firms, too, are raking in trillions of dollars in profits in Mindanao, where a martial law rule is currently in place, said Kabataan Partylist.
The youth group described the deals as “one-sided” as it renders the government as a “victim to debt traps of economic superpowers.”
“The liberalization of the country’s economy has left us to no good,” Roldan quipped.
Farmers still landless
Under Duterte, peasant groups assailed the insincerity of the government to implement a genuine agrarian reform program, adding that at least seven out of 10 farmers remain landless.
Those, on the other hand, who are working as farmworkers in various agribusiness plantations are enduring “back-breaking work for wages that can barely sustain their families,” said Antonio Flores of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Flores said that rice liberalization and sugar implementation, as pushed by the US on the Duterte administration, worsened the plight of Filipino masses.
Flores said, “national independence will not be genuinely possible until the decades-old system of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal system of Philippine society is finally abolished by the toiling masses through their perseverance to struggle for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.”