Filipino WWII veterans slam China ‘bullying’ | Global News

Filipino WWII veterans slam China ‘bullying’

• Mark Day of Valor with wreath-laying and protest

• Vow regular protests against China’s encrochment

• Back enhanced defense agreement between PH and US


Filipino World War II veterans and supporters mark Day of Valor in Washington, DC. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

WASHINGTON, DC –- Elderly Filipino American veterans denounced Wed., April 9 Chinese “bullying” against the Philippines, which they said was part of China’s design to seize Philippine territories in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).


The veterans urged Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to safeguard Philippine sovereignty and secure President Barack Obama’s commitment that the United States will defend the Philippines in case of Chinese attack in any of the disputed areas.

“We are worried about China’s dangerous actions to force out Philippine Marines from their [BRP] Sierra Madre naval outpost on the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal),” said Celestino Almeda, spokesman of the Washington DC-based American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) during an afternoon event to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Bataan Day of Valor.

Wreath-laying ceremony

A group of Fil-Am WWII veterans joined the wreath-laying ceremony at the Bataan-Corregidor fountain in the World War II National Memorial commemorated by Philippine Embassy officials and Filipino American community supporters in U.S. capital.

Almeda, 96, said he was concerned that China is now occupying Scarborough Shoal just a short distance from Zambales province and that the Chinese coast guard vessels have intimidated Filipino fishermen from going to their traditional fishing grounds with the use of water cannons.

Almeda, a resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland, said the message they were getting was that China wants to seize Philippine territories believed to contain oil and other minerals in the West Philippine Sea.


“We are glad President Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the U.S. Congress are strongly challenging China’s aggressive moves against the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and her ASEAN neighbors with strong words and actions,” Almeda said.

Patrick Ganio Sr., a 94-year-old veteran who flew in from Jacksonville, Florida, to join the event, urged the Philippine and U.S. government to forge an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that would give visiting American forces temporary access to Philippines bases as part of the existing Visiting Forces Agreement.

Ganio, a Purple Heart medal recipient and prisoner of war, said they were confident that a new accord would be signed in time for the historic visit to Manila later this month by President Obama.

The FilAm veterans and their supporters said the EDCA was crucial to bilateral security cooperation and would enhance the United States ability to defend the Philippines in the unfortunate event of an armed confrontation with China.


Franco Arcebal, the Los Angeles-based ACFV vice president for membership, said Chinese bullying against its smaller neighbors like the Philippines and other Asian countries “has no place among responsible members in the community of nations.”

“I don’t know if China is just testing our resolve to defend Philippine territorial integrity, but we must show Beijing we will not allow them to trample on our sovereignty,” said Arcebal, still sharp at 90, in a telephone interview.

Arcebal, who said his mobility has been hampered lately by advancing age, expressed hope that the claimants to the disputed islands, islets and reefs could find a peaceful solution to their differences.

China is claiming virtually the huge expanse of the South China Sea, including areas that are closer to the shores of Taiwan, and ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

“I think all concerned parties must honor the provisions of the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea,” Arcebal stressed, adding that all the claimants were signatory to UNCLOS.

Arcebal said that he was disappointed that China has refused to participate in Manila’s initiative seeking arbitration from the Internal Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) and that China was insisting on resolving difference by bilateral negotiations.

“China is giving the impression that it is not willing to play by the rules — and that it wants to set its own rules. This is unacceptable behavior, and it has no place among responsible members in the community of nations,” Arcebal stressed.

Arcebal, other ACFV leaders and their allied groups in major cities would hold monthly protest actions to call global attention to China’s aggressive tactics and her alleged refusal to agree submit to international laws.

Blunt commitment

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel, meanwhile, bluntly said at a joint press conference in Beijing Tuesday that the United States was “fully committed” to its treaty partners like the Philippines and Japan.

“The Philippines and Japan are long-time allies. We have mutual defense treaties with each of those countries and we are fully committed to those treaty obligations,” said Hagel, at one point wagging his finger, the New York Times reported.

Earlier, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan insisted that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are currently controlled by Japan as well as disputed islands, islets and reefs in the Spratlys that are claimed or occupied by other Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippine.

Last month, two Chinese coast guard vessels tried to prevent a Philippine ship trying to bring supplies and rotate troops at the Ayungin Shoal, which Manila says is part of its 200-mile exclusive economic zone under UNCLOS rules. The area is located about 105 miles off Palawan and about 1,000 miles from the closest Chinese land mass.

The interdiction by the Chinese vessels led to a standoff, but the smaller Philippine fisheries vessel, which ferried fresh troops accompanies by a small group of media members, succeeded in bringing provisions and a small contingent of Marines to replace those manning a decrepit Philippine Navy vessels that serves as its outposts in the disputed area.


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TAGS: Bataan Day, Chuck Hagel, Day of Valor, disputed islands, South China Sea, territorial dispute, West Philippine Sea, WWII veterans

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