Filipinos issue China 'hands off' warning at consulate rally

Hundreds join demonstration in Manila against Beijing's claims on islands in South China Sea amid growing tension over Scarborough Shoal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 7:05pm

Hundreds joined a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Manila yesterday against Beijing's moves to stake its claims in the South China Sea.

Among them was Philippine businessman Rafael Alunan, who called out to Chinese diplomats he assumed were listening from inside the visa section, which had shut for the day.

Video: Hundreds in Manila protest China's claims in the South China Sea

"We come in peace," he called out in Putonghua.

He stressed the rally was not against the Chinese people but "directed against your government's policy of home invasion in our exclusive economic zone".

Yesterday's protest came exactly a year after Beijing created the new Sansha prefecture-level city in the Paracels to oversee areas it claims in the South China Sea.

The protest, which ended peacefully two hours later, came amid festering tensions between the two neighbours over Scarborough Shoal - which China calls Huangyan island.

It is a Philippine-claimed outcrop seized by China after a two-month naval stand-off last year.

Alunan warned Beijing: "We have a long history of resistance and you are well advised that Filipinos get angry badly."

Other protesters cheered Alunan, who sits on the board of two big corporations, is a colonel in the army reserve and a former cabinet official of ex-president Fidel Ramos.

Anti-riot police monitored the crowd of about 500 protesters as they sang nationalist songs. They included former congresswoman Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, former congressman Roilo Golez who used to chair the House defence committee; and former Senator Rene Saguisag who once played a key role in removing the US military bases from the Philippines.

We have a long history of resistance and you are well advised that Filipinos get angry badly
Businessman Rafael Anunan

Saguisag warned yesterday that tensions with China could "mean possible supreme sacrifice" on the part of Filipinos.

Other protesters shared his concern. "I fear a Chinese invasion. I want peaceful negotiations," Eddie Salazar, 38, said.

A small group of Vietnamese also joined the protest because they could not easily stage rallies in their country due to of state restrictions on public assemblies.

"We Vietnamese like to stand beside you in this struggle against an aggressive China," said Ngo Van Kha, 24, from Hanoi.

Six governments - China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan - lay claim to disputed territories in the South China Sea, which is home to busy shipping lanes and potentially rich in oil and gas deposits.

One mainland Chinese national who watched yesterday's rally, but declined to be named, said: "Look at that. Is that the kind of people that will go to war against China? No. The real enemy is Japan."

Tokyo has also expressed concerns recently over Beijing's actions in the South China Sea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Manila tomorrow. High on the agenda are talks on maritime security co-operation amid tensions with China.

The rally was organised by the US-based Pinoys for Good Governance and the local Akbayan Party, which is a member of President Benigno Aquino's ruling coalition.

The presidential palace distanced itself from the rally and others planned for cities around the world, including New York.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs called it a demonstration of democracy.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse