Monday, November 18, 2019

Amid anti-US protests, many Filipinos see a much-needed ally

Nov 12. 2017
Protestors burn US flags during a vigil during a protest against visiting US President Donald Trump before the start of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO
Protestors burn US flags during a vigil during a protest against visiting US President Donald Trump before the start of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO
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By WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE NATION
MANILA

2,699 Viewed

LEFT-LEANING protesters in Manila yesterday called for the US President Donald Trump to “back off” from the Philippines ahead of Trump’ arrival in the capital for the Asean summit today.

While temperatures on the street were high, most Filipinos approached by The Nation said they felt pleased with ties strengthening with the US, particularly on what they call the West Philippine Sea dispute, known internationally as the South China Sea dispute, although they did not judge Trump to be a role-model leader.

Activists are doused with water after clashing with riot police during a protest near the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, 12 November 2017. The Philippines is hosting the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings from 10 to 14 November. EPA-EFE

At Roxas Boulevard, around 500 protesters from the Anakbayan Southern Tagalog (AB) movement waved red flags over the star-spangled banner, lay flat on the street and displayed signs reading “imperialism and fascism”. 

They tried to pass through a police barrier to get close to the Philippine International Convention (PICC) Center, with about 700 officers deployed at the scene. 

An hour-long confrontation ended with some pushing but resulted in no injuries before the group dispersed. 

“But we will come every day until Trump leaves,” said the AB spokesperson Mackie Valenzuela. “We hope to bring the message that the Philippines is against this imperialist plunder.”

Like many anti-Trump Filipino movements across the Philippines, once a colony of the US, the AB blames the US for making the Philippines dependent on Washington. The only way to “genuine economic emancipation” was to mobilise and fight, Valenzuela said.

Student activists hold anti US President Donald Trump banners during a lightning rally before the start of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, in Manila on November 12, 2017. World leaders arrive in the Philippines' capital for two days of summits beginning on November 13. / AFP PHOTO

Another larger protest near the PICC was expected.

In front of the US Embassy yesterday, however, the protests ended with more than 20 injured and police using water cannons. Several movements were there including the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Timog Katagalugan and Bagong Alyansang Makbayan Mindanao.

Activists scuffle with policemen during an anti US President Donald Trump near the US embassy in Manila on November 12, 2017, before the start of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. World leaders arrive in the Philippines' capital for two days of summits beginning on November 13. / AFP PHOTO

The protests led to more roadblocks being erected in Manila, which was already in lockdown to provide security for the summit. An “Asean Lane” was also reserved on roads to ensure the speedy arrival of envoys from Clark Airport.

The situation led some Filipinos to complain but others were indifferent to the traffic. “It’s all been messed up from the beginning, whether our commuting system or all those meetings. We can’t do anything but adapt,” said 22-year-old freelancer Vincent, who declined to give his surname.

But some saw positive developments due to Trump’s visit. Unlike protesters, they said they believed that playing along with the US would help empower the country.

Protestors burn US flags during a vigil during a protest against visiting US President Donald Trump before the start of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO

“I like Trump’s disapproval of China militarising our owned islands according to international law in the West Philippine Sea,” said real estate broker Marck Emmanuel Agdameg.

“But do I like Trump personally? No, he’s rude and knows no boundary. I just think that it’s diplomatically healthy to keep ties with the US,” Marck added.

While many compared Trump with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for their presentation of themselves as hard-liner realists, physician Nino Fernandez disagreed. “They both simply say what their people want to hear, but they are jokes. Look at Trump’s wall, for example,” Nino said, referring to his unfulfilled campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border.

A zoomed-in image shows an activists holding a placard with the images of US President Donald J. Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during a protest near the US embassy in Manila, Philippines, 12 November 2017. The Philippines is hosting the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings from 10 to 14 November. EPA-EFE

Systems engineer Marion Manuel dela Cruz, 26, said that the US was like a big brother to the Philippines. 

“I don’t see anything wrong with Trump coming here. I actually like him for being more friends of China and Russia,” Marion said. “But I believe in Duterte’s independent foreign policy and it’s not like we have to take that much of a side.”

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