CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—On behalf of her father, who has been fishing at Scarborough Shoal west of their Masinloc home in Zambales, Ruelyn Gubalane on Friday joined some 200 activists protesting China’s “bullying” of the Philippines amid a territorial dispute.
The multi-sectoral group Stand Up for Scarborough Shoal (Stand Up!) organized the protest in front of the Paskuhan Village here. At the rotunda across two malls and leading to the North Luzon Expressway, the protesters planted 50 placards condemning China.
Some read: “China, Bully. Get out of our Sea,” “China: Afraid of Itlos [International tribunal for the Law of the Sea],” “Make peace, not war;” and “Huangyan? Huwag yan (Not that)! Scarborough is our Shoal.”
Gubalani’s father, Ruel, 44, was originally from Leyte but he settled in Barangay (village) Inhobol in Masinloc where many fishermen regularly catch fish during off-rainy season. He works as the captain of a vessel that fishes for tuna at the shoal, which locals call Bajo de Masinloc.
“Bata pa ’ko, nangingisda na sa Scarborough ang tatay ko. Yung mga matatanda namin sa baryo, dun din nangisda. Sa Pilipinas talaga ang Scarborough (My father has been fishing at the Scarborough Shoal since I was young. Old folks in our village say that was where they also fished. Scarborough Shoal really belongs to the Philippines),” said Gubalani, 25, a staff member of the Pampanga-based Center for Emergency Aid and Rehabilitation (Concern), which trains communities in disaster preparedness.
The shoal is within the 320-kilometers exclusive Philippine economic zone. Facing Zambales, it is 220 kilometers from the province, 320 km from Puerto Princesa City and 350 km from Manila.
“Let it be clear to all that the Filipino people have no quarrel with their Chinese brothers and sisters, with whom they share centuries of good relations. Many Filipinos of Chinese descent have helped build, and continue to build, our nation,” Stand Up! said in a manifesto.
“Our protest is directed at the overbearing actions and stance of the government in Beijing, which behaves like an arrogant overlord, even in the homes of its neighbors.”
Kelvin Vistan, spokesman of the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya in Pampanga, blamed the United States for “provoking the conflict.”
“This is part of the current strategy of the US to control the Asia-Pacific and stop the growth of China,” Vistan told reporters.
Jerome Gatchalian said he and his fraternity brothers in Phi Beta Rho Banahaw chapter joined the protest because “we are Filipinos.”
Merly Gomez, a paralytic, said she joined the protest to “assert Philippine territory.” “Hindi yun puwedeng agawin dahil para sa Filipino ang Scarborough (China can’t take it from us because Scarborough is for Filipinos),” Gomez said.
Former Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio said, “This is a time of reasons and laws but China refused to go to the [International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea].”