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Philippines urged to hit China with trade tariffs; overseas Filipinos set May 11 rallies

MANILA, Philippines—Hit them where it hurts.”

Balikbayan (returning Filipino) philanthropist, civil leader and lawyer Loida Nicolas-Lewis has called on the government to “show courage” by hitting back at China for “bullying” small countries like the Philippines and violating the country’s territorial sovereignty.

Lewis also reminded Filipinos worldwide, including an undisclosed number of Chinese-Filipinos, to rally in front of China’s embassies and consulates on May 11 to protest China’s aggressive encroachments on Scarborough Shoal, located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales province and more than 440 nautical miles from the nearest Chinese port of Hainan.

“China is a bully…She must be hit with moves like trade tariff. Let the Philippine Congress show its courage by passing a law that would impose tariff on all Chinese goods,” Lewis told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday.

That is, despite the free trade agreement between Beijing and Association of Southeast Nations member-states, like the Philippines, asserted Lewis, chairperson of the New York-based group US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG).

“If China files a case against us before the World Trade Organization for violation of the free trade agreement, then we could pursue our plan to bring the Scarborough Shoal case to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (based in Hamburg, Germany),” Lewis said.

Citing China’s reported incursions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), she asked: “What kind of world power are they if they are the one violating international laws?”

China should be good global citizen

“As a world power, China should show that it is a good global citizen. It should follow international laws, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said Lewis.

Asked if the US had a role to play in settling the Philippines-China standoff over the shoal – now on its 20th day – Lewis pointed out Washington’s role would be to “comply with its obligations under the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty.”

“The Americans are obligated to come to our aid if China attacks the Philippines…. The US will come to our aid because it is to their self-interest to protect freedom of trade in the West Philippine Sea. If they do not fight with us in the event of a shooting war, then the global community will consider them a second-rate nation,” she said.

At the same time, Lewis cited the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for its diplomatic offensive in Asean and currently in the US.

“The DFA is on the right track, doing it diplomatically. That is the correct way of solving the dispute at this point,” said Lewis as he thanked both President Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for “standing their ground on the Scarborough Shoal issue.”

Call on Filipinos abroad

Like Rodel Rodis, USP4GG president, Lewis called on the 12 million-plus Filipinos abroad to support the Philippines’ sovereign claim to the Scarborough Shoal, which Manila calls Panatag and Bajo de Masinloc.

On the other hand, China refers to the rock formation as Huangyan Island.

The USP4GG noted that the territorial dispute over the shoal has escalated following these developments:

* Chinese navy ships recently confronted the Philippine navy vessel, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which sought to apprehend Chinese boats illegally fishing in the area and found to contain corals, rare fish and live baby sharks, which are considered illegal under Philippine law.

* Chinese navy ships have fired on and harassed unarmed Philippine fishing boats and marine research vessels, forcing them to withdraw.

* Chinese navy ships have dropped steel posts and navigation buoys with Chinese markings in the waters around the shoal.

On Saturday, a Chinese vessel reportedly harassed two Philippine Coast Guard ships by maneuvering close to them at high speed.

The Coast Guard monitored and documented the Chinese “bullying” incidents, said Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesman.

Gov’t backing

Malacañang over the weekend said it backed the move of Filipino groups worldwide to hold anti-China rallies, but asked them to ensure peaceful activities.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government could “not stop our fellowmen from expressing their sentiments.”

“Our only appeal is for them to make their protests orderly and peaceful since they are in foreign countries. Let us all observe the laws and regulations in whatever country that they are in,” Valte said as she also warned the mass actions could aggravate the current tensions between Manila and Beijing.

She said the government would be “committed to taking the diplomatic track. We expect to pursue that track fully.”

“But, of course, these are private citizens that we have. The citizens of China also do express their thoughts on this matter and we do not take it against them,” she also said.

At the same time, Valte expressed hope China would not retaliate to the Filipinos’ mass actions “because the government remains committed to talking to its counterparts in China, and we hope and we know that this is something that can be settled through the track that the government has chosen.”

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