A group of young Filipino activists, mostly students have arrived at Thitu Island in the Spratlys archipelago on Saturday in protest of China’s creeping invasion of the Philippines’ territory.
The 47 young protesters from the group known as “Kalayaan Atin” led by an ex-marine captain landed Saturday on a small island, which has been the cause of tension between the Philippines and the two neighboring countries, China and Taiwan.
The group has camped for three days at the Philippine – claimed Pagasa island. The group called their expedition as “a patriotic voyage” in a symbolic act of defiance of Chinese aggression to the Philippine exclusive economic zone, according to the island’s mayor, Eugenio Bito-onon.
This act of the young Filipinos has angered both China and Taiwan who have also claims of the group of islands. In a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the spokesperson Lu Kang said “the Chinese government is strongly dissatisfied with protestors from the Philippines.”
Further, Lu strongly declared and urge again “the Philippine side to withdraw all its personnel and facilities from the Chinese islands and reefs it is illegally occupying” at the disputed territory in the South China Sea.
However, the young group’s spokesperson Ban-eg defiantly responded by saying “China has no right to order us or direct us to stay away from our own territory.”
Likewise, Taiwan (ROC) openly expressed “its disapproval of the group’s actions”. The Taiwanese government, like China released a statement that Taiwan “adamantly opposes, and strongly protests” what it called the group’s “illegal activities.”
Continuing further, a Taiwanese diplomatic statement released in the media said that “The ROC government will take all necessary measures to protect its legitimate and lawful rights in the South China Sea region.”
The “Kalayaan Atin Ito” group young protesters have erected tents on the island. They posted on Facebook pictures of themselves on the beach to show to the global public their presence in their own Philippine territory.
The Philippine government and military officials had tried to prevent the group from sailing to the disputed waters. The main reasons cited were security and safety reasons after a storm in the South China Sea, earlier this month.
Earlier, the Philippine government has blocked more than 1,000 volunteers who have joined the demonstration led by “Kalayaan Atin Ito” movement. The 47 young protesters is the group, which had been able to slip in one boat to the island.
Although not openly revealed, but the Philippines is very much concerned of the young protesters’ trip to the island, especially now in the midst of the South China Sea issue. Manila is very careful in dealing with the heightening of tensions resulting from Beijing’s rapid island building and expansion in the disputed area.
Very recently, the Philippines has challenged Beijing before the arbitration court in The Hague, a case Beijing has not recognized. This is because, China claims the Pagasa island and the surrounding Spratly Islands chain as its sovereign territory.
In the center of the dispute is the island named by Philippines Pagasa and claimed by China as Zhongye. Presently, Pagasa is occupied by Filipino civilians and military personnel.
China has expressed strong dissatisfaction of the Filipino protesters action, as they claimed over all and indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly islands, which is 1,288 kilometers away from China’s farthest Hainan province.
The Filipino protesters will not give in to China what they strongly believed the island as their own territory, which is only 196 kilometers and within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.