At a fund raiser for the Filipino Advocates for Justice in Oakland on June 20, I sat down with the former national chair of Bayan USA to ask him if his group planned to join the July 24 global protest against China’s occupation of the Ayungin Reef.
I told him that two years ago, when the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) was planning protest demonstrations in front of all the Chinese consulates in the US, his friend, Raquel Redondiez, the national chair of Gabriela USA and former Secretary-General of Bayan USA, told Balitang America reporter Henni Espinosa that her group was resolutely opposed to Filipino global protest actions against China because, she said, “it will only worsen the conflict between China and the Philippines.”
Raquel told Henni in the TV interview that was aired on Balitang America on May 9, 2012, that “when there is a conflict between siblings or friends, you usually want to start talking one-on-one before you bring in other people or mediators.”
“China is not the true bully in this standoff,” Raquel insisted. “The China threat is being used by the US to actually further trample on our national sovereignty.”
But three Chinese naval ships from Sansha have surrounded Ayungin Reef since May 8 and Major Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has openly announced on Beijing TV China’s plans to set up a blockade to prevent the Philippine marines stationed at Ayungin Reef from receiving fresh supplies.
“Only a few troopers are able to station there,” he said, “but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the cabbage strategy, they will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without the supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they have left, they will never be able to come back.”
Is this conflict with China really one “between siblings and friends” as Redondiez claims? Seriously?
I explained that the July 24 global protest date is significant because it marks the first anniversary of Beijing’s establishment of the Sansha prefecture to supervise 2 million square kilometers of the South China Sea including the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group which lie within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
“Are you anti-imperialist?” I asked him
“Of course!” he replied.
“Well then,” I asked, “what is the essential difference between what the US did to the Philippines in 1899, what Japan did to the Philippines in 1942 and what China is doing to the Philippines now? Are you just anti US imperialist but not anti Chinese imperialist?”
Ayungin Reef is the gateway to the Recto Bank, I explained, and Recto Bank, which is only 85 nautical miles from Palawan, may contain as much as 213 billion barrels of oil and 2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA). The future of the Philippines is in Recto Bank: “Our soil, our oil.”
“If China completes its illegal occupation of Ayungin Reef, it will only be a matter of time before China proceeds to occupy Recto Bank,” I said.
“But,” he protested, “only the rich ruling class of the Philippines will benefit from the exploitation of Recto Bank’s resources.”
“That’s true, now,” I answered. “But don’t you guys want to overthrow that ruling class so that the Philippines is governed by workers and peasants? If you allow China to seize all the oil and natural gas of the Philippines now, what will be left for the Filipino workers and peasants to use in the future? Do you expect China to just return all of our oil and natural gas when the People’s Republic of the Philippines is proclaimed?”
If that was his naïve belief, I would have told him about what happened on March 14, 1988 to the brave sailors of the People’s Republic of Vietnam who refused to take down their flag and leave the Johnson South Reef that is within the EEZ of Vietnam which China is claiming it owns. China’s four warships then pounded the reef with 37 mm anti-aircraft artillery directly shooting and killing 64 unarmed or lightly armed Vietnamese sailors. China filmed its slaughter of the Vietnamese sailors and aired the footage all over China to show that China means business.
What happened to the Vietnamese Navy sailors in 1988 may happen to the Philippine Navy sailors. On June 21, 2013, the Reuters news agency reported from Beijing that China condemned the Philippines’ “illegal occupation” of the Ayungin Reef after the Philippines moved new soldiers and supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre, a sunken WW II vessel which has served as the Philippines’ marine outpost in the Ayungin Reef since 1999.
“China’s determination to safeguard its national sovereignty is resolute and unwavering and (we) will never accept any form of illegal occupation of the Ren’ai Reef (Ayungin Reef) by the Philippines,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in a briefing in Beijing.
Ayungin Reef is just 105 miles from Palawan and almost 600 miles from the nearest China port and yet China claims the Philippines is illegally occupying Chinese property? What gall.
This is the time for Filipinos all over the world to rally to the flag of the Philippines. But, unfortunately, there are organizations like Bayan and Gabriela USA which are advancing the political line that our dispute with China is just between “siblings and friends”.
The website of Bayan USA (bayanusa.org) shows that, along with Gabriela USA, they have a have a large number of affiliates all over the US like Anakbayan and the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines. Proof of their clout and influence is the impressive showing of their partylist groups, Gabriela and Bayan Muna, in the May 13 Philippine elections.
Though the words may sound alike, Bayan and Anakbayan should not be confused with Akbayan. In the Philippine political spectrum, the former groups are viewed as the far left while the latter is considered the “democratic left”. They have fundamental differences on a mountain of issues including China.
Akbayan has been firmly opposed to China’s “creeping invasion” of the Philippines and its members have been actively involved in organizing and participating in all the local protest rallies against China. Akbayan’s national chair, Risa Hontiveros, was the spokesperson of the coalition that organized the anti-China rally on July 8, 2011. Its partylist representative, Rep. Walden Bello, led a House delegation to the Kalayaan Island Group in 2011, a move which was heavily criticized by Beijing.
Recently, on June 11, 2013, Rep. Bello led a “fish protest” in front of the China Consulate in Makati to “express outrage against the atrocious poaching activities in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese government. China aims to stake a monopoly over the fishing and energy resources of the West Philippine Sea in its bid to become a regional hegemon. This is at the expense of destroying the marine ecosystems in the area and subverting its neighbors’ sovereignty,” Rep. Bello said.
On the other hand, the Bayan and Anakbayan organizations and their affiliates take their cue on the China issue from Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. In a statement issued on April 30, 2012, Sison wrote: “China has shown a preference for economic and diplomatic action rather than military action in international affairs.…. What the US is bent on doing is to manage and manipulate the Philippine-China contradictions in order to further entrench itself militarily in the Philippines, continue to violate our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, serve as the bantay salakay, and intensify its efforts to strengthen US hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region.”
Those interested in protesting US imperialism can join Bayan and Anakbayan members and their affiliates in their almost daily demonstrations in front of the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard.
Those interested in protesting China’s imperialism are invited to attend a major protest rally in front of the China Consulate in Makati on Wednesday, July 24 at 12 noon. On that day in New York, Filipinos from all over the East Coast will converge at the United Nations to protest China’s occupation of the Ayungin Reef and to draw attention to the arbitral petition of the Philippine government before the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
There will also be simultaneous demonstrations in front of all the China consulates in the US and all over the world.” We want to serve notice on China that its Sansha garrison navy has no jurisdiction over the Philippines,” USP4GG spokesman Ted Laguatan said.
“Stop China’s Invasion of the Philippines!” is the July 24 battle cry.
For more information about the July 24 global protest, email [email protected] log on to USPGG.org.
(Send comments to [email protected] or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).