Fil-Am leaders divided over PH-China standoff

by Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 10 2012 03:14 PM | Updated as of May 12 2012 01:59 AM

SAN FRANCISCO - Filipino-American community leaders flocked to the Philippine Center in San Francisco in preparation for a global protest in front of Chinese embassies and consulates on Friday.

Expected to draw thousands of people, organizers said, they want to show the power of Filipinos living in the diaspora.
“It really shows the power of the Filipinos in the diaspora because as we point out China can bully the Philippines but the 12 million of us out all over the world, we can influence world public opinion," Rodel Rodis, president of the US Pinoys for Good Governance said.
The Philippine Consulate in San Francisco said while it does not endorse the global protest in front of Chinese embassies and consulates on Friday, it respects the exercise of free speech.
“We respect and recognize these independent initiatives of the civil society, in exercising their rights to freedom,” said San Francisco Consulate Deputy Consul Doy Ver.
The Philippines and China have been in conflict over territorial rights of Scarborough Shoal, located about 123 miles west of Subic Bay. 
The Philippine government wants to discuss this conflict with China before the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, but China insists on bilateral talks with the Philippines. President Noynoy Aquino is urged by Philippine lawmakers to consider this.
Gabriela USA Chair Racquel Redondiez agreed that a one-on-one meeting between the Philippines and China is the best way to solve the conflict. 
“When there is a conflict between siblings or friends, you usually want to start talking one-on-one before you bring in other people or mediators,” she said.
Redondiez said her group is against the global protest in front of Chinese embassies and consulates, because she believes it will only worsen the conflict between China and the Philippines.
“The China threat is being used by the US to actually further trample on our national sovereignty. We know that the Visiting Forces Agreement is unconstitutional,” she added.
But those supporting the global protest against China said it’s about time Filipinos all over the world show that they will fight for their homeland.
Rodis said bilateral talks with China will not make an impact unlike a global protest.
“We vote. We have influence with members of congress. We have influence as consumers. We have a power here that we can bring to bear in support of the Philippines,” he concluded.