MANILA – Some 500 Filipinos protested on Tuesday in Manila against China’s growing presence in Philippine territory following its incursion into disputed territorial waters and the granting of loans to the Philippines for infrastructure projects.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati district – the financial hub of Manila – on the occasion of the Day of Valor (Bataan Day), which commemorates the surrender of Philippine-American troops to Japan during World War II.
The date has become symbolic of the resistance of Filipino people against colonial or interventionist forces, a role that many believe China is currently playing.
The protesters marched peacefully towards the Chinese embassy with posters reading “China get out,” “Philippines is not for sale” and “Duterte traitor,” as many Filipinos accuse the president of selling the country out to the Asian giant.
The march was called by the platform “P1NAS,” formed by human rights organizations, trade unions, environmental groups and various opposition parties, to demand the defense of Philippine sovereignty against China, a country towards which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks to be guiding his foreign policy.
Bayan Muna party Secretary General Renato Reyes told the crowd that the Philippines “is not for sale.”
Last week, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs sent a formal protest to China over the presence of some 200 Chinese boats near the Philippine island of Pagasa, in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, which Manila considered illegal and a violation of national sovereignty.
However, Reyes said that it is not right to say that war is the only choice in asserting the Philippines’ sovereignty.
Although the outcry against China’s presence is growing, even within the government, Duterte has suggested that defending Philippine sovereignty in the waters could lead the country to war and has chosen to receive generous injections of Chinese loans and investments.
Demonstrators also protested against plans to build two large Chinese-financed dams, because of their environmental impact, the expulsion of indigenous people from their ancestral lands, and the exorbitant debt that they will bring.
In 2016, The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration attributed the sovereignty of several territories in the South China Sea to the Philippines, but China rejected the ruling and continues its activity in the area.
Some former Philippine officials filed a complaint last month against Chinese President Xi Jinping at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for causing environmental damage in the waters, which affect thousands of Filipino fishermen.