Filipinos protest 'subservient foreign policy'

Bishops hit President Duterte's alleged subservience to China
Filipinos protest 'subservient foreign policy'

Protesters raise placards protesting the alleged Chinese incursion in Philippine waters during Independence Day demonstrations in Manila on June 12. (Photo by Jhun Dantes)

Activists marched in Manila on June 12 to protest what they described as the Philippine government's continuing "subservient foreign policy" to both China and the United States.

The protesters marked the country's 120th Independence Day celebration a week after Filipino fishermen were driven out of their traditional fishing ground in the South China Sea.

"The Philippines cannot be truly free, not when foreign powers collude to take advantage of our people and resources," said the New Patriotic Alliance in a statement.

A video report released last week by a Manila television channel showed Filipino fishermen watching helplessly as Chinese Coast Guard personnel seized part of their catch at Scarborough Shoal.

Fisherman Tirso Atiga, leader of a fishermen's organization in Calapandayan village in Subic town, complained that the government did not act on the incident.

"Are we slaves of China?" said the fisherman

In a press briefing in the presidential palace on June 11, the fishermen said they were scared to refuse the Chinese Coast Guard personnel.

On June 12, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said it has allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in the shoal "out of goodwill."

"China has made appropriate arrangement for the Philippine fishermen to fish in relevant waters out of goodwill," read the Chinese Embassy statement.

It also assured that "China has a clear and firm determination to commit itself to consolidating and strengthening China-Philippines relations."

Several Filipino fishermen have repeatedly complained that Chinese authorities have been harassing fishermen in the area, even confiscating their catch.

"We cannot be truly free if China continues to claim most of the West Philippine Sea, regulates the movement, and practically bullies our fishermen," said the protesters.

The Philippines has since renamed parts of the South China Sea as West Philippines Sea to assert Manila's territorial claim.

The demonstrators also assailed what they described as the continued treatment of the United States of the Philippines as its "neocolony and foot stool in Southeast Asia."

Braving the wind and rain

Youth organizations led protests in several areas of Manila on June 12 despite the heavy rains and wind brought about by thunderstorms the whole day.

Einstein Recedes of youth group Anakbayan said freedom in the country "remains an illusion under the helm of a cheap dictator-wannabe who shamelessly kowtows to foreign superpowers like China."

Recedes' group joined hundreds of other protesters outside the Chinese consulate in Makati with slogans "PH not for Sale, we are not for Sale" and then to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

A handful of protesters were also able to break through the police cordon and interrupt President Rodrigo Duterte's speech in the province of Cavite.

"We condemn Duterte's inaction amidst Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea depriving Filipino fishermen their livelihood," said Recedes.

The country's Catholic bishops also lamented the "erosion" of the country's independence under President Rodrigo Duterte.

"This president is very subservient to China. He seems not to mind that China is encroaching on our clear territory," said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon.

"Imagine our own fishermen are asking, 'Are we China's slaves?' I thought that the president is a strong man. But he seems to be a weakling in dealing with the Chinese," said the prelate.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the country's independence is "being chipped off."

"We have the creeping subservience to China," said the prelate, an outspoken critic of the Duterte administration.

Since Duterte's election, the Philippines has become more friendly with China and Russia while trying to distance itself from the United States, a traditional treaty ally and former colonial master.

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