Pinoy group in Singapore drops Independence Day event plan
SINGAPORE (2nd UPDATE) – The planned Philippine Independence Day celebration at Singapore's Orchard Road shopping district will not push through, weeks after it became the center of an online controversy in the city-state.
The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS) withdrew their application to hold the event at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza, a shopping center along the famed street, The Straits Times reported Monday, May 26, quoting the police.
The group later confirmed the report, in a statement to Rappler, saying there were "public order and safety issues" with their chosen venue.
The organizers said they discussed with the police the possibility of moving the event to another venue, but due to various constraints – such as availability or size of alternate venues – it "did not pan out."
"[The] PIDC 2014 deemed it is best to cancel the event and have withdrawn the permit application to [Singapore Police Force]," the group said in a statement sent to Rappler.
PIDC Singapore also thanked those who participated in the pre-Independence Day activities that were planned along with the cancelled Orchard Road event. These included a blood donation drive, talks for primary school children and young adults, and activities with the elderly and people with special needs.
The group withdrew their application following the controversy surrounding the event, in which the online announcement for the planned celebration – supposed to take place June 8 – drew criticism, and even racially-laced commentary, from a number of Singaporeans.
The online critics said the group should not hold the event in the middle of a busy shopping and business district, and some also objected to the use of the term "interdependence" and the image of the Singapore skyline in the Facebook announcement, posted back in April.
PIDCS organizers were reportedly harassed and taunted online and through phone calls by some locals, and even received xenophobic comments on their Facebook page.
Critics posting on ultra-nationalist blog The Real Singapore have characterised the commemoration of a foreign state's independence day at the center of town as an example of foreigners overstepping their welcome in Singapore.
An article on the blog said the event undermined "the significance of Singapore's own independence as a sovereign state".
Other anonymous online commentators have called on organizers to hold the event within the Philippine embassy grounds.
Gilbert Goh, an employment counsellor regarded as the most vocal critic of the government's immigration policies, on Monday cheered PIDC's decision to withdraw plans to hold the event at Orchard Road.
"Well done Singaporeans, power to the people!," he said in a post on Facebook accompanied by a picture of a news article about PIDC's decision.
The issue forced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to write a Facebook post condemning the "thuggish behavior" of these commenters and critics, and said it was a work of a "few trolls."
Some also called it an "over-reaction" on the issue, and does not reflect the sentiments of the average Singaporean.
Many saw the furor as a symptom of the country's immigration policies, a hot-button topic in the city-state where locals are accusing foreigners of taking jobs and causing a strain on public services such as housing and transportation.
Singapore's low birth rate prompted the government to grant an average of 18,500 new citizenships every year between 2008 to 2012 – helping the population surge by 30% since 2004 to 5.4 million last year.
Out of a foreign population of 1.55 million from China, India, the Philippines, Thailand and elsewhere, about 700,000 are work-permit holders employed in construction and other sectors shunned by Singaporeans. More than 200,000 others work as domestic helpers.
About 172,700 Filipinos work in Singapore, according to the latest publicly available Philippine government data. Recent arrivals are largely professionals and service-sector workers.
Many Singapore citizens – who now make up barely over 60% of the population – see the overseas arrivals as competition for housing, schools and space in a city-state whose per capita income of $54,500 masks one of the biggest income gaps in the world. – With reports from Agence France-Presse