By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – As the country commemorates Independence Day, Filipino progressives said they have had enough of only seeing it on paper when in reality, freedom has been scant if not trampled upon under the Duterte administration.
In a statement, former Supreme Court Justice and 1Sambayan Convenor Antonio Carpio said, “This day is a reminder to all patriotic Filipinos that Independence Day means renewing our vow to safeguard our territory and maritime zones from foreign invasion.”
Carpio said the President has conceded the country’s maritime zones and natural resources to China because he is afraid of war with China. “In short, the President’s policy is to appease China at the expense of the nation’s maritime zones and natural resources,” Carpio said in a statement read by former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares during the protest action this morning.
“This is not how an independent sovereign state should act. This is how a vassal state acts,” Carpio added.
Progressives waved Philippine flags in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City, chanting, “Atin ang Pinas! China, Layas!” (The Philippines is ours! China, go away!)
More than a hundred vehicles joined the motorcade from UP Diliman in Quezon City, and Rajah Sulayman in Manila and converged in front of the Chinese consulate.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said, “We cannot see ourselves free because foreign powers have been trampling upon it. They have encroached on our waters and our islands. This has been crystal clear under the Duterte administration, a lapdog to foreign powers who cannot stand up for its people.”
Among the issues raised by Filipino progressives are the encroachment of Chinese forces in the West Philippine Sea, and the proposal to amend the Philippine Constitution to allow more foreign powers to own land and strategic industries, including the media.
Reyes said that President Duterte is more keen on how he will benefit from foreign powers than standing up for the people, most especially fisherfolk who should be able to fish in the Philippine waters.
Filipino environmentalists noted that there is no sense of urgency on the part of President Duterte to protect the rights to the West Philippine Sea that is “damning enough to be considered treasonous.”
“We’ve seen how the Chinese militia vessels have displaced our fisherfolk as President Duterte blatantly surrenders the West Philippine Sea to China. It is also a surrender of our constitutionally guaranteed enjoyment of our national patrimony – marine biodiversity, fisheries, and offshore oil and gas reserves,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
At least 16,000 hectares of coral reef, the group added, has been destroyed due to Chinese military installations in the West Philippine Sea. Estimated damages cost of P1.3 trillion annually.
The country has also lost about 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 130 billion barrels of oil reserves to Chinese exploration.
During the protest action, Pamalakaya Chairperson Fernando Hicap said Filipino fisherfolk have also lost their livelihoods, with 70-percent lesser catch than before Chinese commercial vessels encroached the Philippine waters. He added that there were also instances when Chinese fishing vessels would confiscate their catch.
“The fish itself symbolizes our patrimony, our natural resources,” said Hicap.
Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog said only big foreign businesses will benefit from the proposed amendment to provisions of the Philippine Constitution that touch on economic policies. Giving foreign powers more room for full ownership of land and strategic industries will lead to the plunder of the country’s natural resources, said Labog.
“Under Duterte’s five years, we have been leaning on foreign investments for our economic growth. This only led to contractualization, lack of jobs and low salary. These conditions were exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Labog, citing the 4.1 million Filipinos who lost their jobs during the implementation of a stricter lockdown back in April 2021 alone.
In times of crises, contractual workers are always the first to go, he added.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines said that allowing the lifting of safeguards against the further influx of foreign capital will render Filipinos as “second class” in their own country, “especially in the areas of public utilities and critical infrastructures which will no longer be within the ambit of constitutional protection.”
Worse, the Filipino poor fend for scraps while foreign businesses and interests are given preferential treatments, said Kadamay secretary general Mimi Doringo.