MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is playing host to the World Economic Forum (WEF) East Asia, to be held from May 21 to 23 in Manila, and Malacañang said it has beefed up security for the event, especially in anticipation of possible anti-China protests.
Palace official and Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said on Sunday, May 18, that police and law enforcement agencies have been alerted for possible anti-China actions, following several violent protests in Vietnam.
It is highly likely that conflict in the South China Sea will be discussed by President Benigno Aquino III with the president of Vietnam, as noted by Aquino’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte.
“With the president of Vietnam, it will be probable [they will discuss the claims in the West Philippine Sea] given the current issue in their country,” Valte said.
In the recently concluded 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Myanmar, Vietnam strongly voiced its concern over China’s aggressive behaviour in disputed waters.
China, which has laid claim on practically the entirety of the oil-and-gas-rich South China Sea, is at tense odds with its staunchest Southeast Asian critics, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Philippines has lambasted China for its bullying and aggressive tactics, whereas Vietnam has violently protested China’s deployment of an oil rig in disputed waters.
Anti-China protests likewise broke out in Manila, but Coloma said law enforcement authorities were on high alert to curb the occurrence of violence, especially during the upcoming forum.
He added: “Our police and law enforcement agencies are fully prepared to ensure the safe and peaceful conduct of the World Economic Forum. The plans have been discussed. These are comprehensive, and the directive of President Aquino to the Philippine National Police is clear: to do everything necessary to ensure the WEF East Asia forum will go on without incident.”
Coloma also pointed out the likelihood that the issue will come up between Aquino and the Vietnamese leader.
“The Philippines and Vietnam already discussed the issue last week during the 24th ASEAN Summit…It’s natural that if President Aquino and Vietnam’s prime minister were to meet again, they would have an opportunity to discuss the issue further,” Coloma said.