West Philippine Sea

Chinese-Filipino groups call for ‘de-escalation’ of PH-China tensions

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Chinese-Filipino groups call for ‘de-escalation’ of PH-China tensions

CHINESE HARASSMENT. The China Coast Guard brandishes weapons, uses sirens, and threatens Filipino soldiers already moored alongside the BRP Sierra Madre during a June 17, 2024 resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.

Armed Forces of the Philippines

(1st UPDATE) 'In these tumultuous times, with rising tensions in other parts of the world, let us not risk the unity that has prevailed in our region for hundreds of years,' says the Chinese-Filipino business groups

MANILA, Philippines – In a rare move, Chinese-Filipino business groups and civic organizations have issued a collective statement calling for a “de-escalation” of bilateral tensions between the Philippines and China more than a week after a Philippine soldier lost his thumb in another clash between the two countries in the West Philippine Sea.

In a paid advertisement published in select newspapers on Thursday, June 27, 33 major Chinese-Filipino organizations expressed support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s “call for diplomacy” in handling the dispute between the two countries in the West Philippine Sea. 

More importantly, however, the groups stressed the need to “consider paths” that will “safeguard the peace.” 

“We appeal to the governments of the Philippines and China to consider paths that will safeguard the peace, order, and safety of both countries and its peoples. Instead of strife, let us choose harmony. Instead of conflict, let us choose stability. In these tumultuous times, with rising tensions in other parts of the world, let us not risk the unity that has prevailed in our region for hundreds of years,” the groups said.

The paid ad was signed by heads/representatives of influential groups such as the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Incorporated (FFCCCII) led by its president Dr. CeciIio Pedro; the Chinese Filipino Business Club led by Samuel Lee Uy; and, Anvil Business Club president Christopher Yae. 

The groups noted the long history of friendly relations between the Philippines and China, including being allies during World War 2. 

“Our nations have consistently showcased the manifold benefits of mutual respect. As such, we implore both sides to refrain from actions or declarations that will only fuel the already precarious situation,” they said. 

Ethnic Chinese account for around 1% of the Philippines’ population, but Filipinos of Chinese descent are estimated to be around 12% to 15%, according to Teresita Ang-See, founding president of the Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, a group that acts as a bridge between the Tsinoy (Chinese-Filipino) community and mainstream Philippine society.

The joint statement was published 10 days after another clash in the West Philippine Sea between Philippine and Chinese forces, this time seriously injuring Philippine Navy Seaman First Class Underwater Operator Jeffrey Facundo.

The incident is the most serious in recent months as the Philippines continues to deploy supply missions for its troops in the BRP Sierra Madre, its rusting outpost in the Ayungin Shoal, which China calls Ren’ai Jiao, and as China asserts its might in the area.

Facundo, a member of the elite Naval Special Operations Command or NAVSOG, lost his right thumb when the China Coast Guard rammed the Philippine Navy’s rigid hull inflatable boat at high-speed. His thumb was hit by the bow of the Chinese vessel.

China considers Ren’ai Jiao part Nansha Qundao or Nansha Islands, to which it says it has “indisputable sovereignty.”

“Ang buong samahan ng mga Filipino-Chinese ay naniniwala na sa isang mapayapa at mapangunawang paguusap maaari nating mabigyang lunas ang namumuong alitan ng Pilipinas at China. (The whole Filipino-Chinese community believes a peaceful and fruitful dialogue will solve this growing conflict between the Philippines and China.) We firmly believe that only through constructive dialogue, devoid of reproach and condemnation, are we to find common ground that will lead to an amicable resolution of our differences,” the 33 groups said.

The 30 other signatory organizations to the joint statement are:

  • Filipino Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
  • Philippine Chinese Commerce and Industry Overseas Association Inc. 
  • Fookien Merchant Benevolent Association Inc. 
  • Filipino-Chinese Amity Club Inc. 
  • Federation of Filipino Chinese Associations of the Philippines Foundation Inc.
  • Philippine Chinese Charitable Association Inc. 
  • Grand Family Association of the Philippines Inc. 
  • Philippine Soong Ching Ling Foundation
  • Philippine Fujian General Youth’s Business Association Inc. 
  • Filipino Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation 
  • Overseas Chinese Alumni Association of the Philippines 
  • Philippine Jin-Jiang General Association Inc. 
  • Philippine Shinlian Association
  • World Fujian Youth Federation of the Philippines Inc. 
  • Filipino-Chinese Youth Business Association Inc. 
  • Philippine Hong Chong Grand Mason Association Inc. 
  • Philippine Lam An Association Inc.
  • Filipino-Chinese Quanzhou Association Inc. 
  • Philippines Xiamen Amity Association Inc. 
  • Filipino-Chinese Quiapo United Chamber of Commerce Inc.
  • Filipino-Chinese Shi Shi Townmate Association
  • Philippine Everspring Association Inc.
  • Philippines-Zhangzhou General Chamber of Commerce Inc.
  • Philippine Chinese General Restaurant Association Inc.
  • Guandong National Chamer of Commerce Philippines Corporation
  • Philippine Liong Tong Hai Chamber of Commerce Inc.
  • Hongkong Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.
  • Philippine Hui An Grand Association
  • Philippine Hardware Foundation Inc.
  • Caloocan City Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc.  

The Chinese-Filipino community does not normally issue collective statements involving controversial national issues, preferring to keep a low profile.

newspaper, paid ad
PEACE. Thirty-three Chinese-Filipino organizations call for ‘de-escalation’ of tensions between the Philippines and China. Screenshot from PDI paid ad

Last June 21, 17 Philippine business groups and civic organizations similarly called for a “non-violent resolution” to the escalating bilateral tensions. 

Among the influential signatories in that earlier statement were the Management Association of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club, organizations that include the Philippines’ top companies and business leaders. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Thursday that the June 17 incident was a deliberate act by China but did not constitute an armed attack.

“It’s not an armed attack. Walang pumutok. Hindi tayo tinutukan ng baril. (No shot was fired. They didn’t point a gun at us). But it was a deliberate action to stop our people,” Marcos said. An armed attack would provide a basis to invoke the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. – Rappler.com

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.