Protesters tell China: ‘Back Off’



SOME  500  Filipinos staged a protest rally in front of the  Chinese consulate Wednesday in  Makati to express outrage over what has been described as China’s creeping invasion of waters west of the Philippine archipelago.

Nobody  in the  consulate, which was closed for “security reasons”  met with them.

Led by the West Philippine Sea Coalition, demonstrators called on Beijing to take down the virtual perimeter fence that marks the entire South China Sea as Chinese territory.

“We ask you to discard the 9-dash line, which is causing the region so much trouble…If you persist, you leave us with no option but to fight, small as we are,” said former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan, one of the leaders the coalition.

His appeal was met by a supportive roar from the crowd.

“I am here for my country. I want our sovereignty respected,” said 71-year old Butch Marking, who came with colleagues from the Rotary Club. “They should pull out (of the West Philippine Sea).”

The West Philippine Sea is a portion of the South China Sea that Manila maintains is part of its territory and 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The WPS covers a part of the potentially oil- and gas-rich Spratlys chain, which is being contested by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

A trader by profession, Marking has regular dealings with Chinese suppliers from the mainland. He is quick to note that the demonstration is not against the Chinese people but against the Chinese government that reached out “almost 1,000 kilometers from their territory.”

Lawyer Rene Saguisag back in the streets. This time vs China.About 500 demonstrators took part in the rally. They carried placards with “9 Dash Line No Legal Basis,” “China Stop Bullying,” and “Our Soil, Our Oil” in bold, red letters.

The bellow of trumpets – in mimicry of the biblical Battle of Jericho – intermittently drowned off the crowd’s roaring.

The rally closed off a section of the road in front of the World Center Building on Buendia Ave. where the consular section of the embassy holds office on the second  and third floors.

Scores of policemen were deployed for crowd control in front of the building, although the demonstration was peaceful.

“I think what they’re doing is for all of us,” said PO1 Rizalde Cardenas, who was pulled out of regular duty to help in securing the rally. “Yes, I know what’s happening. It’s been in the news for quite some time.”

Coalition coordinator Nick Sotelo said the crowd turnout was more than he expected.

“It’s an indication that more people are aware and concerned about this (issue),” he said. “This is good, this is the start. It’s a process. What we want is for more people to be familiar (with the WPS problem).”

Soleto believes that, even while Chinese embassy officials did not engage them in dialogue, the message has been sent.

Realtor Sarah Garcia is hopeful that the demonstration would help Chinese authorities “realize that they can’t take over someone else’s territory.”

Garcia, who came with her church group Grain New Wine and Oil Ministries, underscored that what they want is for Beijing to be “willing to work it out with the Philippine government” on scheme to share natural resources in the WPS.

Wednesday’s demonstration came ahead of planned protests in front of United Nations headquarters in New York and other key cities around the globe.

The coordinated mass action is meant to impress on China the Filipinos’ outrage over Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea.

A group of some 13 Vietnamese political science students skipped their morning class to join the demonstration. They passed around a letter to gather signatures. They said they will send the letter  back to Vietnam to encourage their compatriots to take a similarly pro-active stance in relation to the sea dispute with China.

“I think this is necessary action for the people, (so) then we can get more people in Vietnam and people in the Philippines to know more about this problem,” said 18-year old freshman political science student Nghaia Nguyen.