Philippine protesters rally against Chinese ‘aggression,’ foreign troop presence

Manila: Protesters in Manila rallied on Tuesday to demand that Chinese, US and other foreign troops leave their territory in the wake of increasing tensions and military buildup in the disputed South China Sea.

The protest was held in the vicinity of the Chinese consulate in Manila, with participants holding banners that read “China leave!” “Philippines is ours,” “Foreign troops out of Philippines,” and “Hands off PH,” as they trampled on an effigy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s military activity in the Philippine part of the resource-rich South China Sea — the West Philippine Sea — has been on the rise, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague dismissing Beijing’s claims to the waters.

Last month, China used a water cannon to disrupt a Philippine supply mission to its troops in the area.

“We say: ‘China out of PH waters and exclusive economic zone,’ we say: ‘Enough of China’s trampling of our territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests,’” the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (The Philippines’ Peasant Movement), one of the Manila protest’s organizers, said in a statement.

“While we strongly censure China’s permanent presence and non-recognition of the arbitral tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea, we also want a de-escalation of the tension in the high seas and an overall demilitarization of the West PH Sea. We do not support and condone the recent and upcoming military exercises initiated by the United States and PH governments.”

Amid an increased presence of the Chinese navy and skirmishes with Philippine personnel in the maritime territory, the Philippines has been conducting a series of multilateral drills in the waters, involving its traditional ally, the US, and also the naval forces of Japan and Australia.

The KMP said it demanded that foreign troops “keep off Philippine territories and waters — including China, US, Japan as well as other troops of foreign nationalities,” as there were “more than enough ways to resolve and de-escalate the conflict and tension.”

BAYAN, the Philippines’ largest alliance of grassroots groups, which also took part in the protests, called on China to “move out of the West Philippine Sea, dismantle its illegal structures, recognize the 2016 arbitral ruling, and to stop harassing Filipino fisherfolk and Philippine supply missions.”

It also demanded a stop to “foreign military buildup,” referring to enhanced defense cooperation with the US.

Manila is Washington’s key security partner in Asia under a decades-long alliance, which allows the US to rotate troops into the Philippines for extended stays and build and operate facilities on Philippine military bases.

In the past two years, the partnership has expanded under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who in February last year permitted American troops to increase their footprint in the country.

“We condemn China’s aggression as we enjoin our fellow Filipinos to expel all foreign troops and forces, especially those involved in enabling genocide in Palestine,” BAYAN said.

“We should not be cannon fodder in the inter-imperialist rivalry and war between China and the US.”

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