FilAm protest in New York against China draws hundreds
Ernie Gange from Boston and Frank Celoza from Philadelphia made the five-hour trip to New York. They knew they had to come and add their voices to the protest against the “bully” that is China.
“We didn’t mind driving five hours, just to come here and join the rally,” said Gange. “We’re happy to be here.”
The protest, organized by businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis and the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, drew about 200 Filipino Americans to the Chinese Consulate on 12th Avenue.
Rally leaders delivered emotional speeches, while marchers chanted “What do we want? China stay out! When do we want it? Now!”
“We have a duty as Filipino Americans to stand up for our country,” Lewis told reporters at a press briefing. “We are doing it peacefully, we are not advocating war, we don’t want war, there will be no war.”
Rally organizer Vonz Santos said the protesters are Filipinos outside of the Philippines “who care” about their country.
“It is a strength that we Filipinos have; People power,” he said.
The marchers accused Beijing of muscling its way into Philippine territorial waters and building an oil rig for the purpose of exploring for oil and other natural gases within the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
A three-way exploration program among China, the Philippines and Vietnam program was initiated during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. While all three countries pledged to respect their own economic zones, Lewis said China used the opportunity to build an oil rig close to the Palawan waters.
She did not directly blame Arroyo for creating that opening, but told reporters, “You draw your own conclusions.”
A brief confrontation with the NYPD nearly marred the rally. The FilAms were told to hold their protest not directly in front of the consulate building. The marchers roared in protest, but eventually caved in.
“Our permit specifically identified the location: in front of the Chinese Consulate. But when we got there, the NYPD told us to gather near the river,” said Vivian Velasco, a member of the organizing committee. “We didn’t want trouble so we abided accordingly.”
The rally moved near the Hudson River along 12th Avenue.
The rally in New York was just one among other simultaneous protests held around the world. Similar protest actions were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, the Philippines and other parts of the world where Filipinos have a big presence.
The rally sought to bring awareness to China’s alleged intrusion of Philippine waters to extract oil, said Loida.
“China said what’s theirs is theirs and what’s ours is theirs also, that cannot be!” she said in her speech.
The participants gathered at the Holy Cross Catholic Church on 42nd Street and chanted all the way to the Chinese consulate. The FilAms attended mass before massing for the rally at noon.
“I am half Chinese but I’m here not only to cover this event but to support you guys,” said a journalist from Sing Tao Daily. “What China is doing is a violation of human rights.”
Broadway actress Liz Casasola and young singer Kirby Asunto sang “Bayan Ko,” a patriotic hymn associated with anti-dictatorship protests. Eyes welling with emotion, the rallyists sang along.
On Friday, the Philippines and China agreed not to let disputes in the West Philippine Sea affect friendly relations.
“The two sides reaffirmed their commitments to respect and abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN member countries in 2002,” they said after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi held talks in Beijing.
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