Fil-Ams demand China exit from disputed sea
CALIFORNIA, USA – While Filipino Americans celebrated The Hague arbitral tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China, they lost no time in challenging the Asian giant.
“ChExit,” Rodel Rodis demanded, borrowing from the acronym used by proponents of the movement for the United Kingdom to separate from the European Union. “The world should condemn China's invasion and should increase pressure on China to exit Philippine waters now."
He added: "Boycott China-made products."
Rodis, president of the United States Pinoys for Good Government, led allies in a march from St. Mary’s Cathedral to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to protest against China.
“Since the Philippines filed its claim in the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration, China has occupied seven of the shoals and islets in the West Philippine Sea and has converted them into artificial man-made islands where they have constructed port facilities, airport runways and even surface-to-air missiles,” said the lawyer and former Filipino American studies professor.
“China is threatening to do the same to the Scarborough Shoal which is only 125 miles from Luzon. The UN arbitral tribunal's ruling today strips China of any legal basis to justify its naked invasion of Philippine territories.”
The international tribunal concluded that China has no legal standing in its claim to majority of the South China Sea, or what Filipinos call the West Philippine Sea. (READ: 'TIMELINE: The Philippines-China maritime dispute' )
China rejected PH claims and jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal, calling instead for bilateral negotiations.
It also rejected the tribunal's decision. “China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards,” said President Xi Jinping.
Loida Nicolas Lewis, US Pinoys for Good Government chair based in New York, said she was hopeful despite China's defiance.
"China may have snubbed the decision but she cannot hide from the condemnation of countries that believe in the rule of law,” she said at a rally facing the Chinese Embassy and the United Nations in Manhattan.
“Our next move is to start a worldwide campaign. If China remains deaf to international opprobrium, (our plan) is to campaign for international boycott of made-in-China goods. China may not listen to public criticism but she will listen when her pocketbook is in danger of being depleted. That is a better move than war.”
While activists assembled in festive fashion in key cities on the West and East Coasts, proudly waving the Philippine flag and flashing posters vilifying China, some pondered the actual impact of the ruling.
“The tribunal decision is meaningless unless it can be enforced,” San Mateo County community leader and media pundit Guy Guerrero weighed in. “It is too early to rejoice and celebrate."
"War is not an option," Guerrero, a US Navy veteran, said. "Economic measures could work, but that requires cooperation and coordination with other nations, an option (that), needless to say is almost impossible to achieve. Look at the turmoil now in Europe over the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.”
The US State Department appealed for calm.
"This decision can and should serve as a new opportunity to renew efforts to address maritime disputes peacefully,” it said a statement.
Prayers for peace were made at the St. Isabella Catholic Church in San Rafael, north of San Francisco, where Pastor V. Mark Reburiano spoke about human rights that morning of July 12.
"May all our leaders foster always peace and stability, including political and economical stability. May all of us be mindful always of the goods and resources of Mother Earth meant to be shared for the welfare of all. May we always respect countries and their territorial boundaries so as to avoid conflict and division amongst us," he said.
"May we move forward to be able to use appropriately the natural resources that are in Scarborough, with the hope that it will help the country which has Scarborough's legal and territorial right eliminate poverty, create more jobs and improve the quality of life of its people."
From her South San Francisco home, Alice Bulos - spiritual mother of the FilAm political community, applauded those who stoked protest against what they blasted as China's "bullying" the archipelago.
"We must use our power to protect Filipinos everywhere," she told Rappler.
Colma Council Member Joanne Del Rosario, the first FilAm woman to become mayor in the 9 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, was both proud and relieved. She is the sister of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who led the Aquino administration team that brought China to court. – Rappler.com
San Francisco Bay Area-based Rappler contributor Cherie M. Querol Moreno is editor at large of FilAm publications Philippine News and columnist of Philippines Today US.
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