‘We’re keeping quiet’
Phila Siu and Mary Ann Benitez
Friday, May 11, 2012
Filipinos in Hong Kong are stepping back from a worldwide protest today against China’s claim to the Scarborough Shoal – but they are with their countrymen in spirit.
The mass protests by tens of thousands of Filipinos in most countries at noon is likely to inflame passions on both sides, despite calls for a negotiated settlement of the dispute.
And Chinese in the Philippines have been advised by the Philippines Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry to stay indoors during the mass rallies there, with general secretary Jimson Choi Kan- sang saying the rally can possibly get “very dangerous."
The situation was made more fraught by fighting talk from officials in both countries yesterday, with the head of the Philippines Congress calling on the government to buy more weapons and the official media in China saying their navy would bury the Filipino warships “under the sea" if they dared fire the first shot.
Five Chinese warships are believed heading to the shoal to reinforce Chinese ships and fishing boats in a standoff with Philippine ships.
United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairwoman Dolores Balladares said they had no plan to join the protest, though they do support the Philippines’ position in the dispute.
The shoal is about 230 kilometers west of the Philippines and 1,200km from China, with Manila saying it is its territory under the Law of the Sea. Beijing claims all of the South China Sea.
“This is an issue of sovereignty and we oppose any country, inclu
ding China, who encroaches on it," said Balladares.
Choi said several Chinese groups have posted notices in Philippines newspapers calling on Chinese residents to look out for themselves during the rally in Manila today.
“We posted the notices because the rally can become very dangerous," he said from Manila.
He fears mobs will pretend to be part of the protesters and stir up the crowd so they can break into houses.
The US Pinoys for Good Governance, a Filipino civil rights group based in the United States, has called on the 12 million Filipinos around the world to stage corresponding rallies.
The group suggested the Filipinos protest in front of Chinese embassies and consulates around the world so that Beijing will “lose face."
Mainland travel agencies, including the China International Tour Service, yesterday cancelled trips to the Philippines, saying the suspension is for safety reasons.
Since the Manila tour-bus bloodshed in 2010, and the corresponding black travel alert, local travel agencies have stopped organizing package tours to the country.