On Independence Day, PH launches docu on sea row

MANILA, Philippines – On its Independence Day, the Philippines is set to launch a documentary on one of the biggest threats to national security: its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

"The objective of our whole campaign, not just this documentary, is to raise the level of awareness of our citizens on the West Philippine Sea issue, and to rally support behind Philippine policy and action," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose told Rappler on Thursday, June 11.

Jose said the 20-minute documentary is set to air at 5:30 pm on Friday, June 12, on state-run People's Television Network or PTV. It will be aired in the same time slot, with a replay at 10:30 pm, from June 15 to 19.

At 4 pm on Friday, the full video of the first episode will also be launched on the government's social media sites, including the Philippine president's official website, www.president.gov.ph.

Jose said this is the first in a 3-part series, titled "Kalayaan (Freedom)" and produced by the DFA with the help of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). It is part of a bigger campaign that includes information tours across the Philippines. 

The government unveils the documentary as the Philippines on Friday marks its 117th Independence Day, which commemorates Philippine independence from Spain in 1898. (READ: Aquino to mark 117th Independence Day in historic Iloilo town)

'It's directed to our people'

The documentary also comes as Filipinos grow increasingly concerned about the West Philippine Sea dispute. 

A recent survey, conducted by veteran pollster Junie Laylo for Philippine broadsheet The Standard, shows that other countries' attempts "to seize Philippine territory and resources was the number one threat" for Filipinos. The survey said 3 out of 10 Filipinos consider this the greatest threat from other countries. 

In his phone interview with Rappler, Jose also explained that Friday's documentary aims to tackle the economic aspect of the West Philippine Sea dispute.

It shows that the Philippines will lose up to 80% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) if China asserts its claim over the West Philippine Sea.

The EEZ is the area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines or "edges," which the state has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit marine resources.

Because it involves the right to fish, the documentary argues that the maritime dispute threatens Filipino fishermen. 

While the documentary seeks to debunk China's claims, Jose said the video doesn't aim to agitate Beijing. 

He said, "It's directed to our people." 

While the Philippines airs this documentary, the West Philippine Sea dispute heats up because of the latest word war between the Philippines and China. 

Recently in Japan, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III compared China to Nazi Germany, but later clarified that it wasn't his intention to hurt the country.

Aquino's comment angered Beijing, days before the Philippines and China on Tuesday, June 9, marked the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship. (READ: China to PH: We can properly handle differences) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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