Atin Ito marchers denounce China’s ‘acts of aggression’

Atin Ito marchers denounce China’s ‘acts of aggression’
Youth marchers use boat props to symbolize the Filipinos' fishing rights in the West Philippine Sea during Tuesday's march to the Chinese consulate in Makati. —PHOTOS BY ALBERTO MARQUEZ

On the eve of the 126th anniversary of Philippine Independence, hundreds of activists, fishers and their supporters marched to the Chinese consulate in Makati City in protest against China’s incursions into the West Philippines (WPS), warning Beijing not to underestimate the Filipinos’ resolve to resist foreign aggressors.

“China will not intimidate us,” said Akbayan Party president Rafaela David. “In the spirit of our forefathers who resisted colonial powers, we assert that we will not succumb to the tyranny of our era. With each act of aggression, we respond with unity, solidarity, courage and hope.”

David is a coconvenor of the Atin Ito (This is Ours) coalition, which led Tuesday’s “WPS Day of Action.”

The protest march mobilized members of groups allied with Atin Ito, including the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), the New Masinloc Fishermen Association, the Mabayo Agri Aqua Association in Bataan, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, Akbayan Youth, and other sectoral groups and social movements. One prominent supporter, “running priest” Fr. Robert Reyes joined the protest.

Waving Philippine flags and displaying placards, the protesters chanted “West Philippine Sea—Atin Ito!” and “China Layas!” during the noisy but festive rally outside the consulate on Tuesday.

Leonardo Cuaresma, leader of the Masinloc fishers’ group who led a contingent from Zambales, was thankful for the support for the Filipino fishermen.

“We are here to manifest that this struggle is waged not only by the fisherfolk but by the Filipino people,” Cuaresma said.

Fishers’ ordeal

Atin Ito
A noisy but festive protest outside the consulate.

The protesters accused China of harassing Filipino fisherfolk and trying to drive them away from their traditional fishing grounds in the WPS and blockading supplies to troops on the grounded BRP Sierra Madre at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

In one incident in May, members of the China Coast Guard (CCG) seized food and other supplies that were airdropped to the Sierra Madre and then threw them into the sea. They also rammed a small coast guard boat that was evacuating a sick member of the Philippine Navy sailor from the Sierra Madre.

In increasing frequency, CCG vessels also blast Filipino supply boats with powerful water cannons and have injured their crew and damaged the vessels.

“We remind China that our history bears witness to a resilient Filipino spirit, forged through countless struggles against foreign aggressors and the shadow of superpowers,” David said.

She said generations of freedom fighters “stood firm against colonial dominion and invasive forces.”

“We will not allow them (the Chinese) to continue occupying the West Philippine Sea,” she said.

China is laying claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, including the WPS, waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ). An arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 that China’s expansive historical claim had no legal basis. Beijing continues to ignore and reject the arbitral award which upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights to its EEZ.

“Should China harbor the misconception that it could break us through its escalation of violence and harassment in our region, it grievously underestimates our resolve,” David said. “China stands as but the latest entrant in a lineage of foreign aggressors against which Filipinos have fearlessly contended throughout the annals of time.”

Global solidarity

Atin Ito
A Filipino fisherman waves the Philippine flag near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

In a statement, PRRM President Edicio Dela Torre, another cocovenor of Atin Ito, called for global solidarity with the Philippines against China’s actions in the country’s EEZ.

“China’s narrative is deceptive,” he said. “While accusing the Philippines of violating international law, it openly aggresses our vessels and loots our supplies. The truth is evident: China is the aggressor.”

A week before Independence Day, the Bigkis ng Mangingisda Federation, displayed the Philippine flag in waters near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, also called Bajo de Masinloc (or BDM) to “show resistance to China’s incursions and to defend Philippine sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone,” the group said.

On June 1, more than 20 fishing boats had sailed from Zambales led by Bigkis president Randy Megu to the West Philippine Sea, specifically Panatag.

One boat displayed a banner that said “Ang West Philippine Sea ay pag-aari ng sambayanang Pilipino” (West Philippine Sea belongs to the Filipino people) and another saying, “Ipagtanggol ang karapatan ng mga mangingisda sa West Philippine Sea” (Defend the rights of fishermen in the West Philippine Sea).

About 30 nautical miles (55 kilometers) from Panatag, one of the fishermen displayed a Philippine flag to show to foreign vessels, especially Chinese, sailing by.

“The Chinese have no right to the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Megu said in a statement.

Before heading back home to Zambales on June 3, they again waved the Philippine flag, he said.

Read more: ‘Atin Ito’ sets new mission to Scarborough Shoal to assert Filipinos’ fishing rights

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