Since April, China and the Philippines have been involved in a tense dispute over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea, and the Filipino media has been quick to defend its nation’s legitimacy in the region.
The quarrel was initiated with the recent Philippine harassment of Chinese fishermen who sought harbor on the island to escape bad weather, but illustrates the larger issue at hand – that China has developed fresh political muscles, and is not afraid of flexing them.
In protest, earlier this month around 300 people showed up at noon in front of the Chinese embassy in Manila, carrying banners and waving Philippine flags while singing patriotic hymns and chanting anti-China slogans as a means of exerting their feelings about the dispute over the island.
For China’s part, when Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, was questioned about government involvement with the protest, he stated, according to an account in China Daily, that country’s leading English-language daily, that the President himself was not involved. However, he did say that some of the organizers have links with the president’s political allies.
Regardless, Lacierda retorted, “it was the decision taken by private citizens who feel out of patriotism that they have to speak on the issue.”
The media outlet Philippine News reports Lacierda as saying, “We’d like to assure our Chinese friends that we, the government, did not have a hand there… This is not something that is provoked by the government. This is instigated by private citizens who felt they needed to express their opinion on the matter.”
Lacierda said further that the Filipino government would not be able to stop the demonstrators because their “Constitution protects freedom of expression…” Only time will tell if the Filipino media and greater population will have any real influence on China’s up and coming political expansion.