Published: Thu, July 25, 2013
First Posted 7/24/13 8:38 PM | Updated as of 7/25/13 7:18 AM
By Carol Ramoran
Nghia Nguyen is a Vietnamese who has been studying Political Science in the Philippines for over a year now.
He was at the protest outside the Chinese Consular Office in Makati organized on Wednesday by the West Philippine Sea Coalition, calling out to China to stop bullying other nations.
"I also learn a lot from newspapers on the problem in the South China Sea. This is our initiative to cooperate to fight for our right in the sea. And also we are inspired by the Filipino people here because we can see all of them, they are enthusiastic and happy to be here to fight for the right of their country," Nguyen said.
Nguyen said a lot of people back in his home country wish to hold protests to raise awareness on territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But communist laws are draconian.
That's why Nguyen started a proposal letter for the Philippines and Vietnam to work together in achieving their common goal.
He will send the letter, which will be signed by Filipinos and Vietnamese living in the Philippines, to opposition newspapers in Vietnam to drum up awareness in his own country.
The protest in Makati was part of global movement of Filipinos that was launched on Wednesday against China's apparent bullying in the South China Sea
Former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III, one of the conveners of the West Philippine Sea Coalition, said: "But we also come here in peace. We want to convey to the people of China that, to begin with, this is not about them. This is about their government. The policy of their government of intrusion, occupation, and threats of war against a small country like the Philippines."
Alunan said he expected Wednesday's protest to set off a snowball effect.
"What's important is that Filipinos from different walks of life, wherever they are, are beginning to take cognizance of the problem and beginning to take leadership where they are to rise up and protest," he said.
China's intrusions – considered by many a "creeping invasion" – have been going on for years.
The disputed Mischief Reef has been a target.
Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, former national security adviser and another West Philippine Sea Coalition convener, said the Philippine government was fooled into believing China that the structures they put up on Mischief Reef were only temporary shelters for its fishermen.
"Naloko ang gobyerno natin noon kaya tumahimik tayo. After about three, four years, heto ang bumulaga sa atin. Ito na ang kanilang ginawa. Temporary ba yan? [Our government was deceived then, that's why were kept quiet. After about three, four years this [pointing to blown-up photos of Mischief Reef structures] is what we saw. This is what they built. Is that temporary?]," Golez said.
He said Filipinos should not allow a similar situation to develop. They should stand their ground over what is rightfully theirs and tell China to get out of Philippine territory, particularly Bajo de Masinloc and Ayungin Shoal.
Though the protest was peaceful and towed the government line, Malacañan was quick to disavow the global action.
"All the actions taken by the individual citizens wherever they are from, whether here or abroad. These are the actions taken by the Filipinos on how they view the situation," Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman, said.
Meanwhile, Alunan said global protests were aimed at raising awareness, not adding fuel to the fire, to the issue.
For her part, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said: "I hope the Chinese Consulate's closing of its offices today for the first time sa pagkilos namin sa harap nila ay hindi nangangahulugan din na kanilang pagsara ng tenga sa panawagan ng mga ordinaryong mamamayan [I hope the Chinese Consulate's closing of its offices today for the first time in our protest in front of them does not mean that they are also shutting their ears on the clamor of ordinary citizens]."
Alunan said the public should expect more from their movement as the situation in the South China and West Philippine Seas are important not just to Filipinos but to the international community.
China has been insisting its ownershp of the whole South China Sea through its nine-dash line claim, including the West Philippine Sea, the body of water
within the Philippines' 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
The disputed Spratly Islands on the West Philippine Sea is being claimed in part by the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia and is claimed in whole by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
Other disputed areas in the South China Sea are the Macclesfield Bank and the Paracels – all of which have been put by China under a prefectural level administrative city called Sansha.