MANILA, Philippines – Organizers of a multi-country protest against Chinese encroachment on Philippine territory are vowing to gather tens of thousands on May 11 in Manila alone, as they announced a roster of prominent Filipino personalities that they said have already pledged to show up in the rallies.
Among the more well-known personalities who have signified support for the protest – the rallies are planned to be held in front of Chinese embassies worldwide – are former President Fidel Ramos, former civil service commissioner Karina David, civil society leader Leah Navarro, Paolo Delez, and broadway star Lea Salonga, the protest leaders said.
Updating journalists on the earlier call for Filipinos around the world to picket Chinese embassies and consulates on May 11, lead organizer Loida Nicolas Lewis of the US Pinoys for Good Governance watchdog group said the Makati City rally will take place between 12 noon and 1 p.m on that date, in front of the Chinese Embassy.
Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and Jackson Gan of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce joined Nicolas-Lewis in calling on all patriotic Filipinos here and abroad to join the International Day of Protest against China’s intrusions on Philippine territory.
So far, Filipino groups in the United States, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, Germany and the United Arab Emirates have committed support for the synchronized protest against Chinese incursions in Panatag, also called Scarborough Shoal, just off Zambales province.
The standoff began April 10 when a Chinese maritime surveillance ship blocked the Philippine Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar from apprehending the crew and seizing cargo of endangered marine species from eight Chinese fishing boats in the lagoon.
As of last count, nine Chinese vessels have been deployed in the area as a show of force, even as Beijing rejected Manila’s invitation to bring the issue to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
The US Pinoys for Good Governance said in the face of such intransigence, Filipinos around the world—estimates vary from 8 to 10 million—should show they will not stand for the brazen incursions in areas clearly within the Philippines’s UN-designated 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
A signature campaign won’t be enough, rally organizers said.
Earlier, President Aquino and Department of Foreign Affairs officials had reached out to other members of ASEAN, warning them that if they don’t speak up against China on this issue, they could be the next victim of such incursions.
Fellow ASEAN member Vietnam, the only one so far strongly in support of Manila’s tack, has had run-ins with China in the past.
Meanwhile, party-list group Akbayan, which supports the global protest on May 11, welcomed America’s “neutral” stance in the maritime row between Manila and Beijing.
The Aquino administration’s multi-pronged strategy—and its thus far peaceful approach to the controversy, are also correct, according to Akbayan’s Riza Hontiveros.
Akbayan has twice held protests against China since the Panatag stand-off began last month.