Chicago picketers press China to heed ruling on sea dispute
CHICAGO—Acting in concert with other protesters in various major U.S. cities, Filipino Americans of this city staged a picket at noon on July 12 in front of the Consulate of the Peoples Republic of China at 100 W. Erie Street, demanding that “China stop bullying” and that it should “Get out of the Philippine territory.”
Hours after the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague handed down its ruling in favor of the Philippines’ claim that China had encroached in shoals within the territorial limits set by United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the picketers offered a mass at University of Illinois in Chicago’s Notre Dame Church mid-morning on Tuesday, and then proceeded to the Chinese Consulate.
“We also want to express our thanks to former President Benigno C. Aquino and his Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario for their foresight to bring this case in 2013 before the U.N. Court of Justice despite the intimidation and bullying of the powerful Chinese leaders,” said Cindy Flores, lead organizer of the protest.
China to prepare militarily
Ahead of the ruling last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing was “not afraid of trouble” while state-run media urged China to prepare for “military confrontation” in the disputed waters.
“I personally believe that President Duterte will do the best for our country based on this favorable ruling,” Flores added. In a news report July 12, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told reporters that the new administration will need five days to study the ruling and only after that will the government fully respond on its implication.
Another Chicago picketer, Dr. Cleofe Casambre, a physician at a Chicago Hospital was apprehensive about this development. “The new president has been vocal about engaging in bilateral talks with Chinese leaders in exchange for joint ventures in developing the natural resources of the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea and a Chinese promise of building a railway system in Mindanao—these are matters of great concern,” said Casambre.
Another picketer also expressed other concerns. Human rights lawyer Carlos Cortes said that with most of the attention being given to Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, “the importance of the South China conflict is relatively being taken in stride.” He pointed at the mere dozen picketers in a metropolitan area of no fewer than 130,000 Filipino Americans.
More informational events needed
Flores admitted the need to drum up more support and to organize more informational events to educate both Filipinos and Americans. “After all, the South China Sea is a crucial sealane between the Pacific and Indian oceans, where over $5 trillion in trade is shipped yearly,” said Flores, former president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce in the Midwest.
Also, a week earlier on the July 4th parades in the Villages of Skokie and Morton Grove, two near north suburbs in Chicago, thousands of copies of the Proclamation of U.S.-Philippine Friendship Day by the two village mayors citing the commercial, military and cultural ties between the two countries were disseminated by the members of the Knights of Rizal (KOR) to parade viewers.
“We had in mind the dispute in the South China Sea even when we distributed the informational leaflets. We need to build goodwill among the American people and we need all the friends we can get during this time of conflict,” said Ely Gemina, a KOR who was also at the picket line on Tuesday.
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