Apr 29, 2020

Even after the Philippines won sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea through the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, it only seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as the Chinese government continues its maritime activities in our exclusive economic zone. 

Just last year, President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to ignore the tribunal’s decision for a joint oil and gas development with China. The President has never stopped mentioning the “good diplomatic relations” between both countries since then.

Now, the Chinese Embassy is leveraging the pandemic to solidify this “friendship.” They released the “Iisang Dagat” music video on Friday, Apr. 24 and dedicated it to frontliners from both countries who are continuously fighting against COVID-19, “especially the China Medical Expert Team.”

It was for a good cause. After all, there’s nothing wrong with helping one another and promoting unity between the two nations, especially during a pandemic. But with more than 170k dislikes on YouTube, it seems like the Filipino people are not impressed. 

According to some comments under the video, it isn’t right to use “Iisang Dagat” as the song title when China is fully aware of the existing maritime tension. Acknowledging the title is like ignoring the sea’s political and economic significance, one comment says.

There’s reason for Filipinos to doubt the sincerity of it all as last February, Chinese coast guard pointed a radar gun at a Philippine vessel. Plus, it wasn’t the first time. There already have been reports of Chinese coast guard harassing our fisherfolk in the past.

The Chinese government has also seemingly taken this opportunity to distract Filipinos from their sneaky coastal actions. While we’re busy with the pandemic, they’ve already built two research facilities on our waters to further their study on deep sea ecology and “monitor the ecological and seismic changes in key regions of the South China Sea,” a Chinese news agency reported.

[READ: Make China pay for damaged reefs and activities in West PH sea, Hontiveros urges execs]

Malacañang, however, disagreed. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing on Tuesday, Apr. 28, that they don’t believe China is using the pandemic to proceed with their naval plans. “We do not agree with that conclusion. Although the current policy is we will defend all our national territory and our sovereign rights,” Roque added.

Filipinos expressed their aversion and wanted the song to be taken down but some officials claimed that China is only exercising its right to free speech. It’s ironic though, as they requested the Taiwanese government to deport an overseas Filipina caregiver after airing criticism on the current administration on social media. If that’s the case, wasn’t she just exercising her right to free speech as well?

Meanwhile, a song called “Save Our Seas” is gaining recognition after the release of “Iisang Dagat.” Performed by Vietnamese rapper Tu P, Filipino rapper Sickmind and Malaysian singer Mei Lee, the song basically sums up the maritime conflicts between the three Southeast Asian countries and China.

The dispute may not end anytime soon but one thing’s for sure: We’re not fighting a losing battle. Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have expressed their support for our country. We even have the arbitral ruling to legitimize our claim. The only thing we lack now are leaders who will stand firm and fight with the FIlipinos to protect the country’s sovereign territory.

Does this mean war between the two nations? No, we Filipino people only want to gain full ownership of things that are rightfully ours.


Header photo courtesy of Ubey Ahmed on Unsplash

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TAGS: china iisang dagat maritime dispute philippines Save Our Seas West Philippine Sea