WPS, foreign policy issues take center stage in Independence Day protests across Metro Manila

Across Metro Manila, progressive groups, the youth, and members of the clergy trooped the streets on Independence Day, June 12, to protest on multiple foreign policy issues such as the worsening situation in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the continuous kowtowing of the Philippines with the United States and China.

The slew of activities began the day before at the Chinese Embassy along Gil Puyat Ave. in Makati with the WPS Day of Action program led by the Atin Ito! coalition. Undeterred by the rain, the crowd screamed their mantras of “West Philippine Sea, atin ito!” and “China, layas!” as they danced to the beat of drums while holding Philippine flags in the air.

(West Philippine Sea, this is ours!…China, leave!)

Spokesperson for the coalition Rafaela David told The LaSallian that they hope to send a message to China that “despite being a smaller nation, history has shown that Filipinos will fight against its oppressors and colonizers.”

On Independence Day, higher wages and lower prices were the calls of activists from the youth and labor sector as they walked along España Blvd., aiming to reach the Mendiola Peace Arch. The group, however, was ultimately prevented from reaching the area since the place was “not a freedom park,” according to the policemen stationed there.

In his speech, labor rights activist and former presidential candidate Leody de Guzman expressed that Filipinos are not free if certain issues persist. “Walang kwenta ang kalayaan kung tayo naman ay wala pa ring kalayaan sa kagutuman na naranasan ng ating mga ninuno…kung mababa ang sahod at kung ang mga magsasaka ay walang sahod.” 

(Freedom is meaningless if we are not free from the hunger experienced by our ancestors… if wages are low, and if farmers have no income.)

An hour later, meters away from the US Embassy, a larger faction of protestors faced hundreds of battle gear-clad personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard. The 15-minute-long lightning rally consisted of members of the Makabayan bloc such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, ACT Teachers Partylist, and Bayan Muna.

The afternoon proceedings were set in motion when a separate protest led by Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) took place in front of the Quezon City Hall, calling for Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte to immediately cut partnerships with the Israeli Embassy, which included a “sister-city” partnership with Rishon LeZion, a city in Israel, and assistance spearheaded by an Israeli company.

In an interview with The LaSallian, National Coordinator for SPARK John Lazaro expressed the importance of boycotting Israel’s projects within the city. “Bukod sa nangyayaring genocide laban sa mamamayan ng Palestine, we understand na merong impact ito… and that is why we are looking for alternatives for the city to take para makuha nila yung technical assistance na kailangan nila,” he said.

(In addition to the ongoing genocide against Palestinians, we understand that this has an impact…and that is why we are looking for alternatives for the city to take in order to acquire the technical assistance they need.)

Lazaro also emphasized how inappropriate it is for units of the Philippine state to have partnerships with a country that violates international laws: “We [Filipinos] have to defend the strength of international law while a genocide is happening in Palestine.”

The day was capped off with prayer as religious groups from the Archdiocese of Manila held a vigil along the Manila Baywalk where they pleaded for the easing of tensions in the WPS and the recognition of Philippine sovereign rights in the area. The group then marched along Roxas Blvd. to the tolls of three church bells, which, according to Fr. Robert Reyes, symbolizes an alert to the arrival of an enemy: China.

The march ended with a mass and candle-lighting ceremony at the Our Lady of Remedies Parish. Acting Parish Priest Fr. Jude Genovia SSC said that his church was selected for its historical significance and location. “Look at our parish, it is in front of the WPS. We cannot separate ourselves from our marine history. We should take care of [the WPS] because that is ours,” he proclaimed.

Nash Laroya

By Nash Laroya

Carmen Maitem

By Carmen Maitem

Leave a Reply