China’s increasingly aggressive tactics in asserting its claim to nearly the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) have turned off Filipino senators, who have decided not to make Chinese New Year a nonworking holiday in the Philippines.
Before going on Christmas break, the Senate passed on second reading a bill that would make the day on which the new lunar year falls each year a nonworking holiday.
Making Chinese New Year a nonworking holiday under Senate Bill No. 3323 was meant to be a sign of “goodwill and amity between the Philippines and China,” Sen. Edgardo Angara, the bill’s sponsor, said.
Angara proposed the amendment of the bill to change the proposal for a nonworking holiday on Chinese New Year to a special working holiday in discussions with the other senators during a brief suspension of the proceedings.
The Senate adopted Angara’s amendment without any objections.
The Chinese New Year holiday was then put up for approval and was unanimously passed on second reading.
During the session, Angara and Sen. Joker Arroyo debated the good sense of a law declaring Chinese New Year a nonworking holiday—on the same level of national holidays such as Rizal Day—at a time when China and the Philippines were locked in a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
“I was just thinking whether it is appropriate to enact a law at this time when our relations with China are not exactly encouraging,” Arroyo said in interpellating Angara on the bill.
“We will honor Chinese New Year yet China claims some of our territories as theirs,” Arroyo added.
Angara said he saw the point, but pointed to a “positive note” in Chinese-Philippine relations. He adverted to the longstanding relations between the Philippines and China and the good number of Filipinos of Chinese descent.
“[This] declaration will perhaps shock the Chinese to recognition that we were once one great community, trading with each other,” Angara added.
Angara claimed that it was through the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade that Chinese silk and porcelain came to the notice of the West.
As the debate was running too long, the session was suspended to allow the senators to find a resolution to the issue.
When the session resumed, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III announced a compromise—amending the bill to make Chinese New Year a special working holiday.
The compromise made Sen. Sergio Osmeña III withdraw his notice of interpellating Angara on the wisdom of declaring another holiday despite the Philippines’ having too many nonworking holidays.
“I am proud to support this measure because my grandfather was the first ethnic [Chinese-Filipino] who was elected President, and I think our brothers and sisters from the mainland have contributed in no small measure to the growth of our economy, of our society and our country,” Osmeña said.
The Philippines on Wednesday denounced China’s decision to strengthen islands involved in territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea as a violation of international law.
The Philippines is also protesting new Chinese passports stamped with a map that shows nearly the entire West Philippine Sea as China’s territory.