SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Bay Area Filipinos joined Filipinos all over the world in protesting in front of China’s consular offices on July 12 to denounce China’s continued occupation of territories within the jurisdiction of the Philippines.
Dubbed Chexit (after Brexit), the protest march began at St. Mary’s Church and stopped in front of the Chinese embassy between Geary and Laguna. The protesters chanted “Court order: China out!” and sang the national anthem and Bayan Ko past noon.
But the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague already issued its rule that there is no merit to China’s claim that it owns 80 percent of the South China Sea because of a 1947 Kuomintang map with nine dashes on it (the “nine dash line map”) and that the Scarborough Shoal is not an island and therefore belongs to the Philippines.
The Philippines filed a claim before the PCA in January of 2013 after China occupied the Scarborough Shoal in April of 2012 even though it is 550 miles from the closest China outpost and only 135 miles from Luzon within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines as determined by the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS).
China contested the UN’s jurisdiction to consider the Philippine claims against China but the PCA denied China’s assertion that it has jurisdiction over the issue.
“The Philippine victory in its case against China is historic. This is the first time a legal case over a territorial dispute has ever been launched against China, and the first time China has lost. It illustrates a peaceful process that countries with territorial disputes against China can follow. For the Philippines, we celebrate a ruling that reinforces our rights over our own resources within the EEZ which includes both our fertile fishing grounds as well as the trillions of dollars’ worth of oil and natural gas which could mean exponential growth for the country,” said Loida Nicolas-Lewis, national chair of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG), which has led the global Filipino community’s opposition to China’s invasion of the West Philippine Sea.
“Moving forward, I believe it is important that we continue to gain international support on the issue, remain assertive on our claims and pursue multilateral talks to find a harmonious solution,” she added.
Community leader Rudy Ascercion brought a few World War II vets to the protest “to make sure China abides by the UNCLOS provisions.” He said, “Territorial disputes are rarely settled by negotiations. There has to be an adult in the room.”
Lawyer and columnist Rodel Rodis was on hand when he addressed the assembled group of protesters. He said he woke up at 4:30 and was browsing the Internet when the arbitration court “solidly ruled in favor of the Philippines.” He said that previously there were doubts and mixed signals so as not to alienate China. “But this is unequivocable. This is clear. We now have legal basis of ownership.”
Rodis likened China’s claim on the basis of their nine dash line map “to Rome claiming to own all of Europe because they once conquered parts of Europe.”
He added that “China thinks they can bribe Duterte by building a railway system in Mindanao. The oil in the West Sea is for the patrimony of the Philippine people. We have to be clear when we say ‘no’. It’s unconstitutional for China to buy our patrimony. We need to put pressure on the Duterte administration to defend our country and our fishermen. This is just the beginning.”
“We are here to serve an eviction notice,” he said through a bull horn in front of the Chinese embassy. “You are interlopers, intruders, trespassers. You have no right to be there, no right to destroy our coral reefs.”
Rodis also exhorted the Philippine government “now is the time to fix Pag-asa Island. We want to show that we recognize the Kalayaan Island group as part of the Philippines.”
He said that for now, China must leave and there should be reparations for damages incurred later.
Rodel said that those who go through the process of negotiation with China eventually find themselves “banging their heads against the wall, like Taiwan, like Tibet.”
“We should celebrate this day as a victory. All the more because we seem to celebrate Bataan and Corregidor – losses and deaths. I can’t think of a victory over a major power that was bloodless. This victory maybe our greatest since Lapu-lapu defeated Magellan.”