Thousands hold protest in Manila as APEC leaders meet

David Lozada
Thousands hold protest in Manila as APEC leaders meet
This is the biggest anti-APEC protest held during the Economic Leaders’ meeting

MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of activists held demonstrations in parts of Metro Manila on Thursday, November 19, as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit draws to a close.

Progressive groups from various sectors – students, farmers, indigenous peoples, and workers’ unions – led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) camped out in Liwasang Bonifacio starting Wednesday night to protest against the APEC “for imposing onerous economic policies that satisfy foreign big corporations’ demands for cheap labor and raw materials.”

This is the biggest anti-APEC protest held during the Economic Leaders’ meeting.

Police blocked the protesters from going beyond Liwasang Bonifacio, following the Philippine government’s strict “no permit, no rally” order.

Protesters argued, however, that Liwasang Bonifacio is a freedom park, which is defined by the Constitution as a place “where demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time without the need of any prior permit.” 

The protesters marched along Taft Avenue and decided to hold a program in Buendia to evade the police blockade. 

‘Maximum tolerance’

The League of Filipino Students (LFS), a group of student activists joining the protests, denounced the measures of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the APEC summit.

“The police overkill for protests against APEC is utterly preposterous. This shows how cruel and paranoid the Aquino regime is towards the Filipino people, paranoid yet servile to his true bosses – foreign leaders led by the United States,” said LFS National Chairperson Charisse Bañez.

The APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting brings together 21 world leaders or their representatives to talk about non-binding economic policies and initiatives. Security had been tight, given the Paris terror attacks last week.

On Thursday morning, Lumad protesters and their advocates clashed with police forces when they marched to Liwasang Bonifacio to join other groups. 

BLOCKED. Hundreds of Lumad clash with around 1,000 anti-riot police at the entrance of Baclaran Church, which was blocked by cops to prevent the Lumad from reaching Liwasang Bonifacio for an anti-APEC protest. They were barricaded inside the church for more than two days. Photo by Pat Nabong/Rappler

“We have no illusion that APEC will serve the country’s needs for sustainable economic development. It is not a remedy, but a venom that kills local industry for the benefit of foreign big businesses. This is why despite the Aquino regime’s repression of rallies, we are determined to rally our call to junk APEC,” Bañez added.

This is the second time in 19 years that the Philippines is hosting the regional economic bloc, which accounts for nearly half of world trade, and about 57% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). –

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