FILIPINIANA | CURRENT AFFAIRS

Fil-Aus to join global protest as Spratly dispute escalates

Michelle Baltazar

Filipino-Americans and Filipino-Canadians are protesting China’s plan to drill for oil in the Spratly Islands territory of the Philippines this month. The oil and natural gas reserve bed is believed to be bigger than that of Kuwait’s and is the fourth largest reserve bed in the world. Community leader Neria Soliman gives her reasons why the Filipino Australian community should join the global protest.

Spratly islands (sourced from the web)
Spratly islands (sourced from the web)

On July 8 (various US timezones), Filipino Americans will be picketing the consular offices of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco to protest the PRC government’s scheduled oil rig drilling activities in the Spratly Islands territory of the Philippines this July.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, a nation owns the oil, mineral and other resources within a two hundred mile radius from its base.

The protest actions were called by the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), a national organisation led by Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Rodel Rodis, which includes leading Filipino-American business, political and community leaders focusing on issues impacting the Philippines and the Global Filipino community.

Nicolas-Lewis, an alumna of St. Scholastica, reached out to a fellow Scholastican who is now based in Sydney, community leader and author Neria Soliman.

Soliman, in turn, called on the local Filipino-Australian media and various community associations to stand alongside the Fil-Am community in solidarity against the proposed drilling.

“There are more than four million Filipinos in the US who can mobilise to defend the sovereignty of the Philippines by exposing China’s aggressive acts in the Spratlys. What is also at stake is the Philippines ownership of potentially trillions of dollars in revenue from its oil & natural gas resources,” said Rodis.

Helping the Fil-Am community are members of the Filipino-Canadian community, who are also picketing the PRC’s consular offices this week and staging their own set of protest activities.

Soliman said that while it is too late for the local community to do a picket here in Australia at the same time as in the US, Canada and the Philippines, she will help organise an information session to make sure Filipino Australians understand the impact of China’s planned oil drilling – and why it should be blocked.

For details on the information session, please contact neria_soliman@hotmail.com.

POST-SCRIPT: In an email to the Filipino-Sydney press community, Soliman wrote her reasons below on why Filipino-Australians should care about the issue.

1. We are protesting China's unilateral decision to drill for oil in Philippine territorial waters recognized as such by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, under which a country has dominion over the resources located within 200 miles of its coasts.

- China is acting like a bully on this matter.  Its intrusion into Philippine waters and planned extraction of oil and gas deposits in the area, without the consent of the Philippines, is a violation of Philippine Sovereignty.

2. We are exposing China's unneighbourly conduct which could lead to hostilities in the region and pose a threat to world peace.

- China is acting in complete disregard of the ASEAN accord under which it committed to resolve the Spratly Islands dispute with claimants like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia peacefully through negotiations.

3. We are protesting China's "oil grab" which it plans to do through sheer military might over its weaker neighbours who like the Philippines are legitimate claimants to the Spratly Islands.

- We want to draw the world's attention to China's aggressive posture, which poses a serious threat to world peace.

4. China's alleged historic claim to the Spratly Islands is the weakest among all claims, that is why it is reluctant to have the matter adjudicated by the International Court of Justice.  Its case is like Italy claiming ownership of much of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

- We want to create awareness of the illegitimacy of China's claim and we want the issue to be resolved peacefully through negotiations among the countries concerned, and not through the use of force.

More website links below:

A primer on the Spratlys dispute - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spratly_Islands_dispute

An opinion piece published in the Philippines on the Inquirer
http://opinion.inquirer.net/7359/regional-cooperation-way-to-solve-tension-in-spratlys

http://www.epeoplepower.ph/

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