British Columbia-based Filipinos and Vietnamese joined forces in a prayer rally at the China Consulate on Granville St., Vancouver, to protest what they called “incursions” of China in their maritime jurisdictions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
About 50 protesters joined the rally, bearing placards urging China to stop the coercion and intimidation of its neighbors. This time, they also called out Canada to make a stand on the brewing regional conflict.
This is also the first time that ethnic Filipinos and Vietnamese have come together in Vancouver, hoping to nudge China from its hard-line position and invite international condemnation of its actions.
In recent months, tension in the region has intensified, with both the Philippine and Vietnamese governments denouncing China’s growing aggression, while China insists it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the vast sea expanse, including the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands.
Wilfredo Bagunu, spokesman for the newly formed community advocacy group Tapsilog (FilCan Network for Truth & Justice) warned this will only be the first of a series of protest actions against China. “This is Tapsilog’s first activity, coinciding with Dr. Jose Rizal’s 153rd birthday celebration. It’s fitting that we honor the Philippine national hero’s memory by raising awareness about this sovereignty issue like what Rizal did during the Propaganda Movement,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eric Lieu, vice president of the Vietnamese Canadian Community in Greater Vancouver Society, said the growing outrage over China’s intransigence also united Vancouver Vietnamese from both North and South. “About 30 people, mostly from the Vietnamese international students and the business community called on China not to bring their oil rigs to the east sea because it belongs to Vietnam. We also want to send a strong message to China to desist from making aggressive actions like attacking Vietnamese fishermen in Hoang-sa and Truong-sa islands,” he said.
Bagunu said he was hopeful they can get more individuals to come out and join their activities. “We will continue to raise awareness primarily using the social media, town meetings, prayer rallies, seminars, until a tipping point is reached.” He believes that there are thousands of quiet people supporting this cause. “When a tipping point is reached, thousands will roar,” he added.
Amado Mercado, a member of the Filipino Canadian Construction Society, said they are strongly urging Canada to condemn Chinese aggression in the contested territories. “The U.S., U.K., Australia and the 10 member-countries of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) have already sided with us. Canada should do the same,” he said.
Businessman Ed Tapia also bemoans Canada’s silence on the issue. “Canada, help us fight the bullies,” cried his placard.